Integration of intention and outcome for moral judgment in frontotemporal dementia: Brain structural signatures

Sandra Baez, Philipp Kanske, Diana Matallana, Patricia Montañes, Pablo Reyes, Andrea Slachevsky, Cristian Matus, Nora Silvana Vigliecca, Teresa Torralva, Facundo Manes, Agustin Ibanez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Background: Moral judgment has been proposed to rely on a distributed brain network. This function is impaired in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), a condition involving damage to some regions of this network. However, no studies have investigated moral judgment in bvFTD via structural neuroimaging. Methods: We compared the performance of 21 bvFTD patients and 19 controls on a moral judgment task involving scenarios that discriminate between the contributions of intentions and outcomes. Voxel-based morphometry was used to assess (a) the atrophy pattern in bvFTD patients, (b) associations between gray matter (GM) volume and moral judgments, and (c) structural differences between bvFTD subgroups (patients with relatively preserved moral judgment and patients with severer moral judgment impairments). Results: Patients judged attempted harm as more permissible and accidental harm as less permissible than controls. The groups' performance on accidental harm was associated with GM volume in the precuneus. In controls, it was al- so associated with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC). Also, both groups' performance on attempted harm was associated with GM volume in the temporoparietal junction. Patients exhibiting worse performance displayed smaller GM volumes in the precuneus and temporal pole. Conclusions: Results suggest that moral judgment abnormalities in bvFTD are associated with impaired integration of intentions and outcomes, which depends on an extended brain network. In bvFTD, moral judgment seems to critically depend on areas beyond the VMPFC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-217
Number of pages12
JournalNeurodegenerative Diseases
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Moral judgment
  • Structural correlates
  • Voxel-based morphometry


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