On the association between apathy and deficits of social cognition and executive functions in Huntington's disease

Rebecca K Hendel*, Marie N N Hellem, Lena E Hjermind, Jørgen E Nielsen, Asmus Vogel

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To investigate if executive and social cognitive dysfunction was associated with apathy in a large cohort of Huntington's disease gene expansion carriers.

METHOD: 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 (LARS), 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 Huntington's disease gene expansion carriers had significantly different scores on most measures of social cognition and executive functions, compared to premanifest and control participants. Apathy was significantly correlated with most executive test scores, but the Emotion Hexagon was the only social cognitive test score significantly correlated with apathy. We found that the motor score and the depression score were the only significant predictors of the apathy score, when the social cognitive and executive tests with the strongest association with the global LARS score were entered into a multiple stepwise regression model. No cognitive test score could significantly predict apathy. The model explained 21 % of the total variance.

CONCLUSION: Despite being significantly correlated with apathy neuropsychological variables did not have a significant impact on apathy when variables as depression and motor symptoms were taken into account. Apathy should be considered an independent symptom of Huntington's disease that requires specific examination.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)369-376
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Apathy
  • Cognition
  • Emotions
  • Executive Function
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease/complications
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Social Cognition
  • cognitive function
  • social cognition
  • Huntington's disease
  • apathy
  • emotion recognition
  • executive functions


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