Post-Stroke Depression, Apathy and Alexithymia

Article Portuguese OPEN
Correia Pinto, Oriana Horta Rendeiro ; Ribeiro, Lúcia (2015)
  • Publisher: Hospital Prof. Doutor Fernando Fonseca, EPE
  • Journal: Psilogos (issn: 2182-3146, eissn: 1646-091X)
  • Subject: psychiatry; neurology | Stroke; Apathy; Alexithymia; Depression. | Psiquiatria; Neurologia; | acidente vascular cerebral, apatia, alexitimia, depressão

Introduction: Several behavioural changes can occur as a consequence of stroke. A large number of studies have evaluated the frequency and severity of post-stroke depression,  apathy  and  alexithymia  that  result from stroke, however the published data is contradictory.Aims: The aim of this article is to present a literature review of the concepts of depression, apathy  and  alexithymia  and  post-stroke neuroanatomical  findings  that  support these psychopathological observations.Methods: Literature review of selected articles and books deemed relevant by the authors, using Medline/Pubmed database with the combination of the following key-words: “stroke”, “apathy”, “alexithymia”, “depression”,  published  between  1973  and  2013. References of the selected articles and books were also considered.Results  and  Conclusions: After  stroke, many patients are left with variable levels of disability, resulting in a mourning process, and this emotional response is thought to be a normative one to post-stroke problems. It has been understood that the depressive dimension is associated with left frontal lobe functioning  (the  so-called  left  frontal  lobe theory), whereas the apathetic dimension is associated with the basal ganglia. The rate of apathy is lower in patients without previous cerebrovascular  disease;  the  rate  of ‘pure’ apathy (without concomitant depression) is twice as frequent as the rate of ‘pure’ depression  (without  concomitant  apathy). Apathetic patients are more frequently and severely depressed and cognitively impaired in comparison to nonapathetic patients. The mechanisms  underlying reduced  emotional  consciousness  and  emotional  blunting following stroke of the MCA are still poorly understood. Apathy and adynamia can be attributed to lesions in the insula and basal ganglia, however reduced emotional awareness can occur as a consequence of changes in  the cerebral  activity  of  distant  regions. Functional and structural alterations in the anterior cingulate cortex have been implicated with the mechanisms of alexithymia. The right hemisphere seems to be superior in the processing and organization of emotional experience when compared with the left hemisphere. Acquired alexithymia can occur as a consequence of lesions in the right MCA territory and this can be significant as it alters the traditional presentation of a depressive episode. Future research should evaluate if these differences in the lesion localization and their influence in functional recovery can, separately or together, originate different patterns of response to treatment.
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