Like most dementias, Pick disease (frontotemporal dementia) is slowly progressive, leading to increased vocational and personal disability. However, a small number of people who have behavioral disturbance consistent with the behavioral variant of FTD may not progress—this has been called the phenocopy variant. In past studies, slow or no progression occurs only in patients with nonlinguistic symptoms—none had primary progressive aphasia.
Some patients can progress slowly over extremely long periods. Some may develop artistic or other talents during the course of their dementia, a phenomenon that is perhaps related to disinhibition of "creative" brain areas. Musical or artistic tastes also may change (eg, the patient may develop a sudden interest in music intended for much younger listeners).
Some patients may be capable of acquiring new knowledge or skills, such as the use of a computer-assisted, simple communication system. This relative sparing of ability to “do things” (process-oriented rather than content-oriented memory) may be helpful in implementing behavioral training techniques to optimize social and daily activity competence.
Pick disease runs a shorter course than Alzheimer disease, on average about 6 years. In some individuals whose main symptoms are a disturbance of speech and language (primary progressive aphasia), the clinical course can be slow. In one small series, these patients survived an average of 5 years longer than patients with behavioral symptoms (behavioral variant). A patient with primary progressive aphasia may preserve the ability to function at home for 10 or more years after onset.