Apathy alters emotional arousal in chronic schizophrenia.

Abstract : BACKGROUND: Within the heterogeneity of schizophrenia, apathy constitutes an independent cluster of negative symptoms associated with poor outcomes. Attempts to identify an emotional deficit in patients who have schizophrenia with negative symptoms have yielded mixed results, and studies that focus on the relationship between apathy and emotional disorders are lacking. METHODS: We set out to remedy this shortcoming using a validated battery of film excerpts to induce positive and negative emotions in patients with chronic schizophrenia with (n = 20) or without (n = 20) apathy, and in controls (n = 20) comparable for age, sex and socioeconomic status. We assessed emotions using an innovative but validated technique to evaluate tonic and phasic electrodermal activity and subjective feelings using a standardized visual analogue scale. RESULTS: Using a qualitative measure of apathy, we did not find a specific decrease in tonic activity during the induction of positive emotions. However, we did observe that patients with apathy showed reduced tonic activity independent of valence (i.e., for both positive and negative emotions) compared with controls and patients without apathy. Moreover, the quantitative measure of apathy (Apathy Evaluation Scale) was the only significant factor, explaining 24% of the variance in tonic activity during induction of positive emotions after controlling for confounding factors. LIMITATIONS: Electrodermal activity was the only physiologic measure we acquired. We induced several emotions sequentially that might have overlapped with each other, but we added an emotional "washout" period and randomized the order of each film excerpt to limit this possibility. CONCLUSION: Taken together, these results suggest that apathy in schizophrenia could impair tonic activity during positive emotions. Treatments aimed at enhancing positive emotions may help alleviate apathy in schizophrenia.
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Thibaut Dondaine, Pierre Philippot, Jean-Marie Batail, Florence Le Jeune, Paul Sauleau, et al.. Apathy alters emotional arousal in chronic schizophrenia.. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Canadian Medical Association, 2018, 43 (6), pp.170172. ⟨10.1503/jpn.170172⟩. ⟨hal-01943955⟩

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