The Role of Apathy and Depression on Verbal Learning and Memory Performance After Stroke Academic Article uri icon

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  • OBJECTIVE: Psychiatric symptoms, including depression and apathy, may significantly impede functional and cognitive capabilities following a cerebrovascular event. This study examined the role of apathy and depression on learning and memory performance in stroke patients. METHOD: Stroke patients (n = 140 [119 ischemic, 21 hemorrhagic], mean age = 60.6 [SD = 15.1]) completed the Apathy Evaluation Scale (AES), the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), and the California Verbal Learning Test-Second Edition (CVLT-II). RESULTS: Using a 2 × 2 MANOVA with depression (CESD ≥ 16) and apathy (AES ≥ 34) as the independent variables and cognitive performance (i.e., verbal acquisition, short-term free recall, and long-term free recall) as the dependent variables, we found a main effect for apathy (F[3,134] = 2.98, p = .034), such that apathetic stroke patients (n = 24) performed significantly worse on verbal acquisition (F[1,136] = 6.44; p = .012), short-term free recall (F[1,136] = 7.86; p = .006), and long-term free recall (F[1,136] = 8.37; p = .004) than nonapathetic stroke patients (n = 116). There was no main effect of depression on cognitive performance (F[1,136] = 1.72, p = .155). CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that apathy, not depression, is related to verbal memory performance in stroke patients. Future research should explore whether treatment of apathy (e.g., improving motivation) could be a novel target for improving cognition after stroke. Researchers should also examine whether this model can be applied to other aspects of cognition, including executive function and other areas of memory including autobiographical and working memory.


  • Fishman, Keera N
  • Ashbaugh, Andrea R
  • Lanctôt, Krista L
  • Cayley, Megan L
  • Herrmann, Nathan
  • Murray, Brian J
  • Sicard, Michelle
  • Lien, Karen
  • Sahlas, Demetrios
  • Swartz, Richard H

publication date

  • May 1, 2019