How can emotional blunting be used to better understand apathy?

5th Jul 2021

In a recent article in the British Neuroscience Association (BNA) journal, Brain and Neuroscience Advances, authors Jackson et al., investigated whether aged male mice express behavioural and physiological changes relevant to the psychiatric symptom of apathy.

What is apathy?

Apathy is a psychiatric symptom that is characterised by a loss of motivation and emotional blunting. It is common in neurodegenerativeStudying apathy diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, but also occurs in otherwise healthy ageing.

Despite its association with poorer quality of life and significant caregiver stress, there is no specific treatment for apathy, and little is known about why apathy occurs in healthy ageing. Investigation of its underlying neurobiology using a rodent model could help elucidate a treatment, but it is not clear whether healthy, aged mice show quantifiable apathy-related behaviour.

Measurements involving emotional blunting

Many studies that measure apathy in rodents only consider loss of motivation and do not consider another aspect of apathy; emotional blunting.

Using a battery of tests that measure effort, sensitivity to reward, anxiety and stress, this study showed that aged mice show a motivational deficit and emotional blunting consistent with apathy behaviour and distinct from what is often observed in depression models.

This is important as it suggests that aged mice can be used to better understand the underlying neurobiology of the symptom in the context of healthy ageing.

Click here to read the full article


About Brain and Neuroscience Advances  

Brain and Neuroscience Advances is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal, which publishes high quality translational and clinical articles from all neuroscience disciplines; including molecular, cellular, systems, behavioural and cognitive investigations.

The journal welcomes submissions in basic, translational and/or clinical neuroscience. Research papers should present novel, empirical results that are expected to be of interest to a broad spectrum of neuroscientists working in the laboratory, field or clinic. 

Brain and Neuroscience Advances is now indexed in PubMed Central.


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