Apathy in parkinson's disease: Neurophysiological evidence of impaired incentive processing

Saul Martínez-Horta, Jordi Riba, Ramón Fernández de Bobadilla, Javier Pagonabarraga, Berta Pascual-Sedano, Rosa Maria Antonijoan, Sergio Romero, Miquel Àngel Mañanas, Carmen García-Sanchez, Jaime Kulisevsky

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50 Citations (Scopus)


Apathy is one of the most common and debilitating nonmotor manifestations of Parkinson's disease (PD) and is characterized by diminished motivation, decreased goal-directed behavior, and flattened affect. Despite its high prevalence, its underlying mechanisms are still poorly understood, having been associated with executive dysfunction, and impaired emotional processing and decision making. Apathy, as a syndrome, has recently been associated with reduced activation in the ventral striatum, suggesting that early- to middle-stage Parkinson's disease patients with this manifestation may have a compromised mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic pathway and impaired incentive processing. To test this hypothesis, we measured the amplitude of the feedback-related negativity, an event-related brain potential associated with performance outcome valence, following monetary gains and losses in human PD patients (12 women) and healthy controls (6 women) performing a gambling task. Early- to middle-stage PD patients presenting clinically meaningful symptoms of apathy were compared with nonapathetic PD patients and healthy controls. Patients with cognitive impairment, depression, and other psychiatric disturbances were excluded. Results showed that the amplitude of the feedback-related negativity, measured as the difference wave in the event-related brain potential between gains and losses, was significantly reduced in PD patients with apathy compared with nonapathetic patients and healthy controls. These findings indicate impaired incentive processing and suggest a compromised mesocorticolimbic pathway in cognitively intact PD patients with apathy. © 2014 the authors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5918-5926
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Apathy
  • Feedback-related negativity
  • Incentive processing
  • Parkinson's disease


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