Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pick's on the brain

Once again I shall post another of my little papers for my class on diagnosing mental disorders. This one's on Pick's disease.

Pick’s disease accounts for 5 per cent of all the dementias, is more common in women than men, and is generally diagnosed when the person is between ages 40 and 60 (Kemp and Rosellini 2004). The shrinkage of brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes, and the presence of brain cell abnormalities (Pick’s bodies), generally confirm the diagnosis of Pick’s disease. Pick’s disease, the cause of which is unknown, generally progresses at a slow rate and is irreversible. Pick’s disease is sometimes known as primary progressive aphasia, or frontotemporal dementia (Sheth 2005).

It differs from Alzheimer’s disease in that it only affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, and Alzheimer’s can affect any area (Sheth 2005). Another noticeable difference from Alzheimer’s disease is that while Alzheimer’s primarily affects memory, Pick’s disease appears to affects an individual’s personality. A person who is normally extraverted may become withdrawn, and vice versa (Kemp and Rosellini 2004). Just as someone who is intoxicated may lose his or her inhibitions, someone with Pick’s disease may become rude, make inappropriate comments, or become sexually uninhibited (this is not to say that a person with Pick’s disease acts as if drunk, although he or she may increase alcohol intake; this is only to say that the person can lose inhibitions). The person also experiences abrupt mood changes, difficulties with maintaining attention span, and language problems (e.g., echolalia, mutism, aphasia).

A CAT-scan or MRI may be helpful in diagnosing Pick’s disease (Butcher et al 2004). However, there appears to be at this time no known cure. Speech and occupational therapists may help with some of the symptoms, but there is nothing to address the total aspect of the disease (Kemp and Rosellini 2004). Behavior modification may help with some behaviors, but formal therapy sessions may not show improvement. Much like the person with Alzheimer’s disease, the person with Pick’s may digress to the point where 24-hour care is required.


Butcher, J., Mineka, S. & Hooley, J. (2004). Abnormal Psychology (12th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Kemp, Gina and Rosellini, Cara. (2004). Pick’s Disease: Symptoms and Prognosis. Retrieved on May 22, 2006, from http://www.helpguide.org/elder/picks_disease.htm

Sheth, Keith. (2005). Pick’s Disease. Retrieved on May 22, 2006, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000744.htm

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