Do dyskinesia and pain share common pathophysiological mechanisms in Parkinson's disease?


  • “Potential conflict of interest: SYL was supported by a grant from Novartis Australia Pty Ltd. The other authors report no conflicts of interest.”


Plastic changes within the striatum resulting from pulsatile dopaminergic stimulation are thought to lead to dyskinesia in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). The basal ganglia play a role in processing pain. We hypothesized that the plastic changes that lead to dyskinesia may also mediate pain responses. Our objective was to compare the change in pain sensitivity after levodopa administration between stable responders, fluctuators without dyskinesia, and dyskinetic patients, and to compare pain sensitivity between PD and healthy subjects. Fifty patients with PD were assessed with cold water immersion after overnight withdrawal of dopaminergic medications and again after a standard levodopa challenge, and carefully classified into stable responder (n = 12), fluctuator (n = 15), and dyskinetic (n = 23) groups. Twenty age-matched controls were also tested. PD patients “off”-medication had a lower threshold (P = 0.016) and tolerance (P < 0.0001) to cold pain compared to controls. After levodopa administration, dyskinetic patients experienced a large increase in cold pain threshold (48%) and tolerance (66%) that was absent in stable responders (P = 0.038 and P = 0.015); there was no significant difference in pain sensitivity change scores between the fluctuator and either the stable responder or dyskinetic groups. Our results suggest that dyskinesia and pain may share common pathophysiological mechanisms in PD. © 2008 Movement Disorder Society