Apathy in Mild Parkinson's Disease: Neuropsychological and Neuroimaging Evidence

Hamad Alzahrani, Angelo Antonini, Annalena Venneri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Apathy is one of the most common neuropsychiatric symptoms in Parkinson's disease (PD). Few studies have investigated the cognitive and neuroanatomical correlates of apathy in PD, and those which have done so have not controlled for the presence of other neuropsychiatric comorbidities. Objective: To explore the cognitive and neuroanatomical correlates of apathy in PD at a mild disease stage. Methods: Sixty-five PD patients and 24 healthy controls participated in this study. Patients underwent extensive neuropsychological screening, neuropsychiatric assessment using the Neuropsychiatric Inventory, structural MRI scanning, and neurological examination. Voxel-based independent t-test analyses were used to assess the differences in grey and white matter volumes between the sample groups with/without apathy/neuropsychiatric symptoms. Results: Patients with apathy had lower grey matter volume in several brain areas including the left insula, left inferior/middle/medial frontal gyrus, right anterior cingulate, and the left superior temporal gyrus. Significant impairments were found in tests assessing executive functions, and a trend-level significant difference was observed in long term memory tests in patients with apathy, when compared with patients without apathy. Conclusions: Apathy was associated with greater levels of atrophy in the frontal and temporal cortex, and anterior cingulate, as well as overall lower level of cognitive performance, particularly in executive function and memory skills. Apathy appears to be associated with cognitive impairments in PD, therefore, treatment of this symptom might mitigate its effects on cognitive performance in this clinical population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)821-832
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Parkinson's Disease
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • cognitive impairments
  • executive function
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • neuropsychiatry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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