The relationship between apathy and impulsivity in large population samples.
Petitet P., Scholl J., Attaallah B., Drew D., Manohar S., Husain M.
Apathy and impulsivity are debilitating conditions associated with many neuropsychiatric conditions, and expressed to variable degrees in healthy people. While some theories suggest that they lie at different ends of a continuum, others suggest their possible co-existence. Surprisingly little is known, however, about their empirical association in the general population. Here, gathering data from six large studies ([Formula: see text]), we investigated the relationship between measures of apathy and impulsivity in young adults. The questionnaires included commonly used self-assessment tools-Apathy Evaluation Scale, Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11) and UPPS-P Scale-as well as a more recent addition, the Apathy Motivation Index (AMI). Remarkably, across datasets and assessment tools, global measures of apathy and impulsivity correlated positively. However, analysis of sub-scale scores revealed a more complex relationship. Although most dimensions correlated positively with one another, there were two important exceptions revealed using the AMI scale. Social apathy was mostly negatively correlated with impulsive behaviour, and emotional apathy was orthogonal to all other sub-domains. These results suggest that at a global level, apathy and impulsivity do not exist at distinct ends of a continuum. Instead, paradoxically, they most often co-exist in young adults. Processes underlying social and emotional apathy, however, appear to be different and dissociable from behavioural apathy and impulsivity.