Effect of Methylphenidate for Apathy on Visual Attention Scanning Behavior: a Pilot Study

Sarah A. Chau, Nathan Herrmann, Jonathan Chung, Moshe Eizenman, Krista L. Lanctôt



The purpose of this pilot study was to explore the potential of eye-tracking technology in monitoring symptoms and predicting outcomes in apathetic Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients treated with methylphenidate (MTP).


Neuropsychological tests and eye-tracking measurements were completed at baseline and following at least four weeks of treatment with MTP (5–10 mg BID). Eye-movements were measured while patients viewed novel and social stimuli. Cognition, behavior, and apathy were assessed using the Standardized Mini-Mental State Exam (sMMSE), Neuropsychiatric Inventory, and Apathy Evaluation Scale (AES), respectively.


Nine patients were included in the analysis (age: median=75, interquartile range=8; sMMSE: median=22, interquartile range=14). Spearman correlations showed that improvement on the AES was associated with increased visual attention towards novel stimuli (ρ7=-0.809, p=.008). Additionally, lower baseline attention towards social images was associated with improvement on the AES (ρ7=0.905, p=.001).


Eye-tracking techniques can be developed as an objective and nonverbal method of monitoring symptoms and treatment outcomes in AD patients.


Alzheimer’s disease; apathy; methylphenidate; eye-tracking

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5770/cgj.21.291


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ISSN: 1925-8348 (Online)