Depressive symptoms and apathy are associated with psychomotor slowness and frontal activation.
Affective symptoms, such as depression and apathy, and cognitive dysfunction, such as psychomotor slowness, are known to have negative impacts on the quality of life (QOL) of patients with mental and physical diseases. However, the relationships among depressive symptoms, apathy, psychomotor slowness, and QOL in a non-clinical population are unclear. The aim of the present study was to assess these relationships and examine the underlying cortical mechanisms in a non-clinical population. Fifty-two healthy male volunteers were assessed for depressive symptoms using the Zung Self-rating Depression Scale (SDS), for apathy measured using the Apathy Scale, and QOL using the Short-Form 36 item questionnaire (SF36). The volunteers also performed the Trail Making Test Part A (TMT-A) while undergoing assessment of hemoglobin concentration changes in the frontal cortical surface using 24-channel near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). The scores of the SDS and Apathy Scale showed significant negative correlations with the scores of most of subscales of the SF36. In addition, the SDS score had a significant positive correlation with the time to complete the TMT-A. Further, activation of several frontal cortical areas had a significant positive correlation with the scores of the SDS and Apathy Scale. These results suggest that the degree of depressive symptoms and apathy are associated with a lower QOL in a non-clinical population and that cortical hyperactivation during a psychomotor task measured by NIRS may identify objectively individuals with a high degree of depressive symptoms and apathy.