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BACKGROUND: Research on cognition in apathy has largely focused on executive functions. To the best of our knowledge, no studies have investigated the relationship between apathy symptoms and processes involved in social cognition. Apathy symptoms include attenuated emotional behaviour, low social engagement and social withdrawal, all of which may be linked to underlying socio-cognitive deficits. METHODS: We compared patients with brain damage who also had apathy symptoms against similar patients with brain damage but without apathy symptoms. Both patient groups were also compared against normal controls on key socio-cognitive measures involving moral reasoning, social awareness related to making judgements between normative and non-normative behaviour, Theory of Mind processing, and the perception of facial expressions of emotion. We also controlled for the likely effects of executive deficits and depressive symptoms on these comparisons. RESULTS: Our results indicated that patients with apathy were distinctively impaired in making moral reasoning decisions and in judging the social appropriateness of behaviour. Deficits in Theory of Mind and perception of facial expressions of emotion did not distinguish patients with apathy from those without apathy. CONCLUSION: Our findings point to a possible socio-cognitive profile for apathy symptoms and provide initial insights into how socio-cognitive deficits in patients with apathy may affect social functioning.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Neurol

Publication Date





Adult, Aged, Apathy, Brain Injuries, Cognition, Executive Function, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Neuropsychological Tests, Social Behavior, Theory of Mind