Aim Apathy is a prominent symptom of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but measurement is confounded by physical disability. Furthermore, it has been traditionally measured as a unidimensional symptom despite research demonstrating a multifaceted construct. The new Dimensional Apathy Scale (DAS) has been specifically designed for patients with motor disability to measure 3 neurologically based subtypes of apathy: Executive, Emotional and Initiation. We aimed to explore this behavioural symptom by examining the substructure of apathy in ALS and to determine the reliability and validity of the DAS in patients and their carers.
Method Patients and carers were recruited through the national Scottish Motor Neurone Disease Register and were asked to complete the DAS, the standardised Apathy Evaluation Scale, and the Geriatric Depression Scale-Short Form. 83 patients with ALS, 75 carers and 83 sex-matched, age-matched and education-matched controls participated.
Results When compared with healthy controls, patients showed a significant increase in apathy on the Initiation subscale, and were significantly less apathetic on the Emotional subscale. Scores on the DAS patient and carer versions did not significantly differ. Internal consistency reliability, convergent and discriminant validity were found to be good for the DAS subscales. There was no association between the DAS and functional disability using the ALS Functional Rating Scale.
Conclusions Apathy in ALS is characterised by a specific profile of increased initiation apathy and reduced emotional apathy. The DAS is a reliable and valid measure for the assessment of multidimensional apathy in ALS.