Apathy is defined as a syndrome of primary loss of motivation not attributable to emotional distress, intellectual impairment or consciousness disturbance. The aim of our study was to investigate the effects of vascular risk factors and silent ischemic brain lesions on apathetic behavior of community-dwelling elderly subjects. Brain MRI and other medical examinations were performed on 222 non-demented community-dwelling elderly subjects (96 men and 126 women, average age 70.1 years). The apathy group was defined as the most apathetic quintile determined by Starkstein's apathy scale. Silent infarction, deep white matter lesions (DWMLs) and periventricular hyperintensities were detected in 12.2, 39.2 and 22.5%, respectively. Linear regression analysis (Pearson) revealed that the scores on the apathy scale correlated slightly but significantly with logarithmically transformed scores of the Modified Stroop Test (r=0.135, P=0.045), but not with the Mini-Mental State Examination. The apathy group tended to have more high blood pressure (141.6/82.6 vs. 136.1/79.6mmHg), less prevalent hyperlipidemia (18 vs. 35%) and lower serum albumin. Multivariate analysis (the forward stepwise method of logistic analysis) revealed an independent correlation between the apathy and grade of DWMLs (odds ratio 1.826, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.129-2.953 per grade) or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) (odds ratio 1.055, 95% CI 1.014-1.098 per mmHg) after adjusting for possible confounders. The mean apathy scale score in the DBP ≧ 90mmHg group was significantly lower (more apathetic) than that in the DBP < 80 group (P=0.011, analysis of covariance). This study showed that hypertension and DWMLs are independently associated with apathy in healthy elderly subjects.
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