Objective: To investigate the relationships between cognitive impairment and apathy in patients with early Huntington’s disease (HD) and to further explore the influence of depression on the outcome of cognitive changes associated with apathy. Methods: We included 36 early HD patients, among them 20 were apathetic (HDA) and 16 were not (HDnA). The two groups were matched by age, education and severity of disease. Cognitive functions were evaluated by a comprehensive neuropsychological battery that measures memory, attention, executive function, language and visuospatial abilities. Results: The HDA patients had significantly lower scores on memory, attention and executive function tests when compared with the HDnA patients (p values <0.05). We compared the performance of patients with (50%) and without depression on cognitive tasks and showed that depression per se did not influence performance. Finally, the results demonstrate that interactions between apathy and motor disturbance have a significant effect on cognitive impairment in HD. Discussion: The presence of apathy is associated with more severe deficits of attention, executive function and episodic memory in early HD patients. Furthermore, the findings suggest that depression has little or no effect on cognitive deficits. Finally, apathy increased in parallel with both motor and cognitive dysfunction.
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