, Volume 207, Issue 4, pp 645-659
Date: 20 Oct 2009

Impulsive choice and response in dopamine agonist-related impulse control behaviors

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Dopaminergic medication-related impulse control disorders (ICDs) such as pathological gambling and compulsive shopping have been reported in Parkinson’s disease (PD).


We hypothesized that dopamine agonists (DAs) would be associated with greater impulsive choice or greater discounting of delayed rewards in PD patients with ICDs (PDI).


Fourteen PDI patients, 14 PD controls without ICDs, and 16 medication-free matched normal controls were tested on the Experiential Discounting Task (EDT), a feedback-based intertemporal choice task, spatial working memory, and attentional set shifting. The EDT was used to assess choice impulsivity (hyperbolic K value), reaction time (RT), and decision conflict RT (the RT difference between high conflict and low conflict choices). PDI patients and PD controls were tested on and off DA.


On the EDT, there was a group by medication interaction effect [F(1,26) = 5.62; p = 0.03] with pairwise analyses demonstrating that DA status was associated with increased impulsive choice in PDI patients (p = 0.02) but not in PD controls (p = 0.37). PDI patients also had faster RT compared to PD controls [F(1,26) = 7.51, p = 0.01]. DA status was associated with shorter RT [F(3,24) = 8.39, p = 0.001] and decision conflict RT [F(1,26) = 6.16, p = 0.02] in PDI patients but not in PD controls. There were no correlations between different measures of impulsivity. PDI patients on DA had greater spatial working memory impairments compared to PD controls on DA (t = 2.13, df = 26, p = 0.04).


Greater impulsive choice, faster RT, faster decision conflict RT, and executive dysfunction may contribute to ICDs in PD.