Thesis defence Claire Kos

05 July 2017

On 21 June 2017 Claire Kos defended her thesis On the move: Towards understanding the neural basis of apathy in front of a committee of established researchers and was awarded with the doctor’s title.

Apathy can be described as a behavioral characteristic involving a loss of motivation and initiative, and feelings of listlessness. Booting and sustaining activities is difficult for people with apathy, which causes less activity in general and especially when activities have to come from yourself. Undoubtedly, everybody sometimes feels a bit ‘apathetic’, for example, with a cold or a lack of sleep.

Sometimes, however, these apathetic complaints can last for longer times, ranging from months to years, and can even seriously complicate the pursuit of simple everyday activities. Unfortunately, apathy occurs relatively often. In this thesis, apathy has been investigated in the healthy population, but also in patients with neurodegenerative disorders (such as in Alzheimer’s disease), in patients with non-congenital brain injury (after an accident or cerebral hemorrhage, for example), and in people with a mental problem, namely in patients with schizophrenia.

The aim of this dissertation was to contribute to a better understanding of apathy, with the emphasis on mapping possible underlying neural correlations. The results of this dissertation show that apathy is related to altered volumes and activity levels in especially the frontal and striatal brain areas, but also in the parietal cortex. In addition, the neural correlates of specific components of apathy, such as self-initiation and cognitive control, were studied and only cognitive control was associated with altered brain activation in the studied populations.

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