New Onset Of Criminal Behavior In Adults May Signal Brain Degenerative Disease

Dr. Georges Naasan MD Neurologist, Clinical Instructor UCSF Memory and Aging Interview with:
Dr. Georges Naasan MD
Neurologist, Clinical Instructor
UCSF Memory and Aging Center

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Naasan: Degenerative diseases of the brain can lead to dysfunction in judgment, emotional processing, social decorum and self-awareness. In turn, such dysfunctions may result in criminal behavior that appears for the first time in middle-aged adults or even later in life. We studied 2397 patients from the Memory and Aging Center at UCSF and found 204 (8.5%) that had a criminal behavior as part of their illness. The large majority of these patients were patients with a specific type of neurodegenerative disease called behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia, followed by a group of people with a disease called semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia. People with Alzheimer’s disease, a disease that does not usually interrupt the functions mentioned above, were the least likely to exhibit criminal behavior. The common manifestation of criminal behaviors in people with the behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia included theft, sexual advances trespassing and public urination in contrast to people with Alzheimer’s disease who, when such behaviors were present, primarily committed traffic violations often secondary to cognitive impairment.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Naasan: Adults and elderly who start engaging in behaviors that deviate from their prior personality may have a neurological illness and should receive a medical/neurological evaluation, specifically focusing on ruling out disease that affect the front part of the brain.


Madeleine Liljegren, Georges Naasan, Julia Temlett, David C. Perry, Katherine P. Rankin, Jennifer Merrilees, Lea T. Grinberg, William W. Seeley, Elisabet Englund, Bruce L Miller. Criminal Behavior in Frontotemporal Dementia and Alzheimer Disease. JAMA Neurology, 2015; DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2014.3781

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