Apathy Is Related to Cognitive Control and Striatum Volumes in Prodromal Huntington's Disease

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2019 May;25(5):462-469. doi: 10.1017/S1355617719000067. Epub 2019 Feb 26.


Objectives: Apathy is a debilitating symptom of Huntington's disease (HD) and manifests before motor diagnosis, making it an excellent therapeutic target in the preclinical phase of Huntington's disease (prHD). HD is a neurological genetic disorder characterized by cognitive and motor impairment, and psychiatric abnormalities. Apathy is not well characterized within the prHD. In previous literature, damage to the caudate and putamen has been correlated with increased apathy in other neurodegenerative and movement disorders. The objective of this study was to determine whether apathy severity in individuals with prHD is related to striatum volumes and cognitive control. We hypothesized that, within prHD individuals, striatum volumes and cognitive control scores would be related to apathy.

Methods: We constructed linear mixed models to analyze striatum volumes and cognitive control, a composite measure that includes tasks assessing with apathy scores from 797 prHD participants. The outcome variable for each model was apathy, and the independent variables for the four separate models were caudate volume, putamen volume, cognitive control score, and motor symptom score. We also included depression as a covariate to ensure that our results were not solely related to mood.

Results: Caudate and putamen volumes, as well as measures of cognitive control, were significantly related to apathy scores even after controlling for depression.

Conclusions: The behavioral apathy expressed by these individuals was related to regions of the brain commonly associated with isolated apathy, and not a direct result of mood symptoms. (JINS, 2019, 25, 462-469).

Keywords: Apathy; Basal ganglia diseases; Caudate; Executive function; Huntington disease; Putamen.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Apathy / physiology*
  • Caudate Nucleus / diagnostic imaging
  • Caudate Nucleus / pathology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Huntington Disease / pathology*
  • Huntington Disease / physiopathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prodromal Symptoms*
  • Putamen / diagnostic imaging
  • Putamen / pathology*