Alzheimer's, Dementia Can Lead to Antisocial, Criminal Behavior

the Psychiatry Advisor take:

People who begin to suffer from neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, may be at an increased risk of engaging in antisocial — and even criminal — behavior.

Georges Naasan, MD, of the University of California at San Francisco, and colleagues examined the medical records of 2,397 patients seen at the UC San Francisco Memory and Aging Center between 1999 and 2012. Of that number, 545 had Alzheimer’s, 171 had frontotemporal dementia (leads to personality changes), 89 had a variation of primary progressive aphasia (decline in language), and 30 had Huntington’s disease (progressive breakdown of brain’s nerve cells).

About 8.5% of the total number of patients engaged in criminal behavior during their illness, the researchers reported in JAMA Neurology. And among those, 37.4% had frontotemporal dementia, 27% had a variant of aphasia, 20% had Huntington’s, and 7.7% had Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s patients tended to commit less serious infractions as most of their lawlessness involved traffic violations.

Regarding inappropriate behavior, 15.2% of men made sexual advances compared with 5.1% for women.

“These individuals should be treated differently by the law,” the authors wrote in their conclusion. “Judicial evaluations of criminality in the demented individual might require different criteria than the classic ‘insanity defense’ used in the American legal system.”

 

Alzheimer's, Dementia Can Lead to Antisocial, Criminal Behavior
Alzheimer's, Dementia Can Lead to Antisocial, Criminal Behavior

Huntington's and Alzheimer's are neurodegenerative diseases that sometimes wreck the brain structures required for sound judgment and self-awareness. Because of this, law-abiding citizens who develop these disorders may stray into the danger zone, a new study finds. While no one would describe them as leading a life of crime exactly, patients may begin to behave as common criminals, stealing, trespassing, and urinating in public as they wish.

For the current study, a team of researchers led by Dr. Madeleine Liljegren of Lund University and Dr. Georges Naasan of UC San Francisco investigated the frequency and type of criminal behavior among patients diagnosed with some kind of dementia disorder.

In particular, they reviewed and examined the medical records of 2,397 patients who were seen at UC San Francisco's Memory and Aging Center between 1999 and 2012. Of these patients, 545 had Alzheimer's, 171 had frontotemporal dementia (causing personality changes), 89 had a variation of primary progressive aphasia (causing language declines), and 30 had Huntington's.

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