Apathy may herald cognitive decline and dementia in Parkinson's disease.Mov Disord. 2009 Dec 15; 24(16):2391-7.MD
Apathy is usually defined as a lack of motivation. It may occur as part of another disorder (notably depression and dementia) or as an isolated syndrome. In Parkinson's disease (PD), apathy is common and several studies have reported an association between this condition and more severe cognitive symptoms, such as executive dysfunction. However, this association has not been thoroughly investigated. The aim of this study (in nondepressed, nondemented PD patients) was to examine whether or not cognitive decline and/or dementia occurred more frequently in apathetic subjects than in nonapathetic subjects. Forty consecutive PD patients participated in the study (20 with apathy and 20 without). None of the subjects were either demented or depressed at the time of study entry. The patients' cognitive functions were extensively assessed twice: at study entry and after an 18-month follow-up period. At study entry, the apathetic PD patients had significantly lower global cognitive status and executive function scores than the nonapathetic subjects. After a median period of 18 months, the rate of conversion to dementia was found to be significantly higher in the apathetic group than in the nonapathetic group (8 of 20 and 1 of 20, respectively). Even in nondemented patients, the decrease over time in cognitive performance (mainly executive function but also memory impairment) was significantly greater in apathetic subjects than in nonapathetic subjects. These findings suggest that in nondemented, nondepressed PD patients, apathy may be a predictive factor for dementia and cognitive decline over time.