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Keywords:

  • decision-making;
  • impulse control disorders;
  • Iowa gambling task;
  • movement disorders;
  • Parkinson’s disease;
  • pathological gambling;
  • social behavior;
  • ventromedial prefrontal cortex

Background and purpose:  Pathological gambling (PG) in Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a frequent impulse control disorder associated mainly with dopamine replacement therapy. As impairments in decision-making were described independently in PG and PD, the objective of this study was to assess decision-making processes in PD patients with and without PG.

Methods:  Seven PD patients with PG and 13 age, sex, education and disease severity matched PD patients without gambling behavior were enrolled in the study. All patients were assessed with a comprehensive neuropsychiatric and cognitive evaluation, including tasks used to assess decision-making abilities under ambiguous or risky situations, like the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), the Game of Dice Task and the Investment Task.

Results:  Compared to PD patients without gambling behavior, those with PG obtained poorer scores in the IGT and in a rating scale of social behavior, but not in other decision-making and cognitive tasks.

Conclusions:  Low performance in decision-making under ambiguity and abnormal social behavior distinguished PD patients with PG from those without this disorder. Dopamine replacement therapy may induce dysfunction of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and amygdala-ventral striatum system, thus increasing the risk for developing PG.