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F21 On the association between apathy and deficits of social cognition and executive functions in huntington’s disease
  1. Rebecca K Hendel1,2,
  2. Marie NN Hellem1,
  3. Lena E Hjermind1,
  4. Jørgen E Nielsen1,
  5. Asmus Vogel1,2
  1. 1Danish Dementia Research Centre, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. 2Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark


Background Apathy can be considered a deficit in goal-directed behaviour. Impairments of social cognition and dysfunction in more classical processes of goal-directed behaviour may constitute the basis of apathy in Huntington’s Disease.

Aims To investigate if deficits of executive functions and social cognition were associated with apathy in a large cohort of Huntington’s Disease gene expansion carriers.

Methods Eighty premanifest and motor-manifest Huntington’s Disease gene expansion carriers (Mini-Mental State Examination score ≥ 24 and Montreal Cognitive Assessment score ≥ 19) and thirty-two controls were examined with the Lille Apathy Rating Scale, a tailored and quantitative measure of apathy, and a comprehensive cognitive battery on executive functions and social cognition (emotion recognition, theory of mind, and sarcasm detection), as well as general correlates like demographic variables, and neuropsychiatric and cognitive screening tests.

Results The motor-manifest participants had significantly higher apathy scores, compared to premanifest and control participants (p = .009, p = .001 respectively). Apathy was significantly correlated with most executive test scores (all p < .05), and the emotion recognition test (rho = -.27, p = .014). In a multiple stepwise regression model with the emotion recognition test, the semantic fluency test and scores of motor function and depression entered as independent variables and the apathy score as the dependent variable, the scores of motor function (b = 0.14, p = .003) and depression (b = 0.41, p = .034) were the only significant predictors of apathy. No cognitive test score could significantly predict apathy.

Abstract F21 Table 1

Correlations between scores on the LARS and the social cognitive and executive tasks for the total group of HD gene expansion carriers

Conclusions Despite being significantly correlated with apathy, cognitive variables did not have a significant impact on apathy, when depression and motor function were accounted for. Apathy should be considered an independent symptom of Huntington’s Disease, that requires specific examination.

  • apathy
  • huntington’s disease
  • social cognition
  • executive functions
  • emotion recognition

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