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Neuropsychology. 2010 Nov;24(6):721-30. doi: 10.1037/a0019650.

The independent influence of apathy and depression on cognitive functioning in Parkinson's disease.

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Department of Psychology, University of South Florida, 4202 East Fowler Avenue, PCD 4118G, Tampa, FL 33620-7200, USA.



The purpose of the present study was to examine the independent influence of symptoms of depression and apathy, two of the most common neuropsychiatric symptoms in Parkinson's disease (PD), on executive functioning and memory in PD patients using measures designed to discriminate between these symptoms.


Participants included 68 nondemented, idiopathic PD patients, ages 56-82 years. The Apathy Evaluation Scale-Self-Rating and select items of the Beck Depression Inventory II were used to assess symptoms of apathy and depression, respectively. Cognitive function was assessed using the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and Hopkins Verbal Learning Test-Revised. Correlations and hierarchical regressions were conducted to investigate the relationships between apathy, depression, and cognitive function. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to evaluate the degree of influence of depression and apathy on cognitive function.


Results revealed that symptoms of apathy, but not depression, were significantly and negatively associated with executive functioning. Immediate memory was significantly and negatively associated with both apathy and depression. However, apathy accounted for additional variance in memory performance after controlling for depression at a level approaching significance.


Apathy is not only associated with cognitive impairment, but also with impaired daily functioning, caregiver burden and distress, medication noncompliance, and increased mortality. Differentiating apathy and depression, understanding their unique effects, and appropriately identifying apathy symptoms in patients have robust implications for the development of neuropsychological models of these effects in PD as well as practical implications in guiding improvements to patient care and enhancing quality of life in patients and caregivers.

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