Pick's disease is a rare and irreversible form of dementia, similar to Alzheimer's disease, except that it generally only impacts certain areas of the brain.

Patients with Pick's disease have Pick's bodies (or Pick's cells) in the nerve cells of damaged areas of the brain. These bodies contain an abnormal form or an abnormal amount of a protein called tau.

Pick's disease is rare, accounting for 1 to 5% of all dementia cases, according to Bruce R. Reed, Ph.D., Chief Neuropsychologist at the Northern California Alzheimer's Disease Center. It can occur in people as young as 20 and as old as 80, though typically onset is between 40 to 60 years of age.


Pick's disease has consistent symptoms with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (FTD), although patients may also experience language problems or aphasia, according to The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration. FTD used to be called Pick's disease, but now the term is just reserved for this specific pathology that involves Pick bodies.

Although each case of Pick's disease is unique, the National Institute of Health outlines some general symptoms of this condition:

Behavioral changes:

  • Inability to keep a job
  • Compulsive/inappropriate behavior
  • Inability to interact in socially
  • Problems with personal hygiene
  • Repetitive behavior
  • Withdrawal from social interaction

Emotional changes:

  • Sudden mood swings
  • Decreased concern for daily activities
  • Inability to recognize behavioral changes
  • Failure to show empathy
  • Inappropriate mood
  • Apathy regarding events or environment

Language changes:

  • Inability to speak (mutism)
  • Decreased capacity for reading and writing
  • Difficulty retrieving words
  • Trouble with speaking or understanding language (aphasia)
  • Repeating anything spoken to them (echolalia)

Neurological problems:

  • Increased muscle tone (rigidity)
  • Worsening memory loss
  • Movement/coordination issues (apraxia)
  • General Weakness

Other problems:

  • Urinary incontinence

Identifying Pick's Disease

Early personality changes can help doctors distinguish Pick's disease from Alzheimer's disease (AD). Those with Pick's disease have superior memories and visuospatial skills to patients with AD, but greater impairment with everyday living. Their language skills also decline at a faster rate. As the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain shrink over time, symptoms worsen for patients with both forms of dementia.

There is no known cause of Pick's disease, though some cases may be passed down through families.

As with all forms of FTD, there is no cure for Pick's disease. Making lifestyle changes can help patients and their families manage symptoms. Certain medications can also help manage changes in behavior and attitude.