Emma Johnson

Investigating motivational changes in frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

Emma Johnson headshot
Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation PhD Scholarship
Project Snapshot

Apathy is a common symptom of dementia and may result in someone withdrawing socially and/or neglecting self-care activities. It is currently unclear what causes apathy, or why symptoms may be displayed differently in frontotemporal dementia (FTD) or Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Whilst apathy is generally assessed as a single symptom, recent research indicates that apathy may be multidimensional, with three subdomains - affective, behavioural and cognitive - that affect the way symptoms are displayed. Emma's PhD research aims to investigate the brain regions associated with apathy and whether different areas are affected differently in FTD and AD. First, a behavioural assessment of apathy will be conducted. This will be followed by neuroimaging to determine which areas of the brain are involved in apathy in FTD and AD. Finally, a combination of clinical and experimental behavioural assessments will be conducted with participants and carers. This will determine the impact of apathy on day to day life and relationships, and which symptoms are linked to which apathy subdomain. Results will be applied to develop a multidimensional apathy assessment tool specific for use in dementia to correctly diagnose FTD and AD. Further, understanding apathy will assist with provision of appropriate person-centred care to manage apathy in dementia, and reduce the impact on carers.

Where are they now?

Ms Emma Johnson is a PhD Candidate with the School of Psychology at the Brain and Mind Centre, The University of Sydney.