Background. The frequency and clinical, neuropsychological and neuroimaging correlates of apathy in patients who have had a stroke are inadequately defined.
Method. A total of 167 consecutive patients admitted to the stroke units of two university hospitals after an ischaemic stroke and 109 controls received extensive medical, psychiatric and neuropsychological assessments; a subset received a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. The groups were matched for sex and age. Patients were assessed 3–6 months after their stroke. The sample for this study comprised 135 patients and 92 controls who completed the Apathy Evaluation Scale (AES).
Results. Apathy was present in 26·7% of stroke patients compared to 5·4% of controls. Apathetic stroke patients were older, more functionally dependent and had lower Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores than those without apathy. Apathy was not associated with risk factors for cerebrovascular disease or stroke severity. There was a weak but significant correlation between apathy and self-reported depression but not with clinician-rated depression. Neuropsychologically, after correction for age, premorbid intelligence (IQ) and depression, apathy was associated with reduced attention and speed of information processing. On neuroimaging there were trends for associations of apathy with the extent of hyperintensities in the right hemisphere and right fronto-subcortical circuit, but not with total stroke volume or number of strokes.
Conclusions. Apathy is common following a cerebrovascular event. Presence of apathy may be related to older age and right fronto-subcortical pathway pathology, rather than stroke severity. It is associated with functional impairment and cognitive deficits.