Apathy and neurocognitive correlates: review from the perspective of 'precision psychiatry'

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2021 Mar 1;34(2):193-198. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000677.


Purpose of review: From the perspective of motivated behaviour and the so-called 'precision psychiatry', we try to identify recent advances in the neurocognitive and biological correlates of apathy.

Recent findings: New evidence supports the notion that apathy is a common transdiagnostic and heterogeneous clinical syndrome, now conceptualized as a reduction in 'goal-directed' activity. Similarly, abundant evidence has been found related to neurocognitive correlates of apathy and the associations between clinical apathy and the processes primarily responsible for mediating motivational drive and effort-based decision making.Notwithstanding that the neurobiological basis is still poorly understood, there is some agreement in recent articles about a common system-level mechanism underlying apathy, pointing at specific medial frontal cortex and subcortical structures, including anterior cingulate cortex, medial orbitofrontal cortex and ventral striatum and related circuitry.

Summary: Although difficulties in interpreting the results of these studies are apparent, because of different concepts of apathy used and methodological shortcomings identified, we have found consistent advances in the neurocognitive and biological correlates of apathy, relevant for the deep phenotyping proposed by the 'precision psychiatry' approach. This framework may eventually facilitate the identification of predictive-risk models and new specific therapeutic targets in psychiatry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apathy*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Neurobiology*
  • Precision Medicine*
  • Psychiatry*