Apathy Associated with Impaired Recognition of Happy Facial Expressions in Huntington's Disease

Katherine Osborne-Crowley, Sophie C. Andrews, Izelle Labuschagne, Akshay Nair, Rachael Scahill, David Craufurd, Sarah J. Tabrizi, Julie C. Stout, the Track On-HD Investigators

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Previous research has demonstrated an association between emotion recognition and apathy in several neurological conditions involving fronto-striatal pathology, including Parkinson's disease and brain injury. In line with these findings, we aimed to determine whether apathetic participants with early Huntington's disease (HD) were more impaired on an emotion recognition task compared to non-apathetic participants and healthy controls. Methods: We included 43 participants from the TRACK-HD study who reported apathy on the Problem Behaviours Assessment - short version (PBA-S), 67 participants who reported no apathy, and 107 controls matched for age, sex, and level of education. During their baseline TRACK-HD visit, participants completed a battery of cognitive and psychological tests including an emotion recognition task, the Hospital Depression and Anxiety Scale (HADS) and were assessed on the PBA-S. Results: Compared to the non-apathetic group and the control group, the apathetic group were impaired on the recognition of happy facial expressions, after controlling for depression symptomology on the HADS and general disease progression (Unified Huntington's Disease Rating Scale total motor score). This was despite no difference between the apathetic and non-apathetic group on overall cognitive functioning assessed by a cognitive composite score. Conclusions: Impairment of the recognition of happy expressions may be part of the clinical picture of apathy in HD. While shared reliance on frontostriatal pathways may broadly explain associations between emotion recognition and apathy found across several patient groups, further work is needed to determine what relationships exist between recognition of specific emotions, distinct subtypes of apathy and underlying neuropathology. (JINS, 2019, 25, 453-461). Copyright and

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-461
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • Apathy
  • Cognition
  • Cognition disorders
  • Emotion
  • Huntington's disease
  • Social behavior

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