Physical brain changes may contribute to apathy among dementia patients, research finds

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Certain changes in the brain's white matter may influence levels of apathy in dementia patients, according to a new study.

Apathy is a common psychological problem for people with dementia and is often associated with decreased quality of life and increased rates of institutionalization, according to researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Roughly 82% of dementia patients who exhibit particular changes to the white matter (they appear as blurred patches on CT and MRI images) were also categorized as apathetic. Comparatively, 58% of all the dementia patients, regardless of brain changes, were apathetic.

Researchers hope to discover which brain pathways these brain changes affect, and thus be able to develop treatments to reduce apathy. The report appears in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.