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Parkinson's Disease and Apathy Are Linked - Frontal Cortex Center for Both Disorders - More People Diagnosed Before the Age of 50

July 10th 2006

Parkinson's Disease and Apathy Are Linked - Frontal Cortex Center for Both Disorders - More People Diagnosed Before the Age of 50


More people are being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease before the age of 50.  Also, researchers in Florida have found that Parkinson’s disease patients can be apathetic without being depressed.  They believe apathy could be the core feature of the disease. This is a mental state characterized by a loss of motivation, loss of interest and loss of effortful behavior. 

Depression is different from apathy in that people with depression have a negative mood.  Although people with apathy and depression have similar symptoms, the person with apathy has a “neutral” mood. 


This study compared 80 people with Parkinson disease to 20 people with dystonia, another movement disorder.  It was hypothesized that people with Parkinson’s disease would be more apathetic because Parkinson’s affects the frontal cortex of the brain.  The frontal cortex is involved in non-motor skills. 

The researcher found that 51 percent of people with Parkinson have had apathy, compared to 20 percent of those with dystonia.  Apathy with no depression occurred in 29 percent of those with Parkinson disease and did not occur in any of the patients with dystonia. The rate of depression was the same in both groups.


The studies author, Lindsey Kirsch-Darrow, says “This study shows that it’s important to screen for both apathy and depression so patients can be treated appropriately. It will also be important to educate family members and caregivers about apathy to help them understand that it is a characteristic of Parkinson disease. Apathetic behavior is not something the patient can voluntarily control, and it is not laziness or the patient trying to be difficult – it is a symptom of Parkinson disease.”

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