Parkinson's patients who are pathological gamblers also display abnormal social behavior

Jan 14, 2010

People with Parkinson's Disease are more likely to display abnormal social behaviour and make poor decisions in ambiguous circumstances if they are pathological gamblers, according to research in the January issue of the European Journal of Neurology.

A number of studies have already associated pathological gambling with Parkinson's, suggesting that it is a frequent impulse control disorder associated mainly with dopamine replacement therapy.

Researchers from the Raul Carrea Institute for Neurological Research (FLENI) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, interviewed the immediate relatives of seven Parkinson's patients who were pathological gamblers. They also interviewed the families of 13 patients - matched by age, sex, education and disease severity - who did not gamble.

They found that the gamblers were less co-operative with others, had difficulties making or keeping close relationships and often did what they wanted, without caring what other people thought.

The researchers also found that the patients in the pathological gambling group performed worse in the Iowa Gambling Task, which is used to assess decision-making abilities in ambiguous or risky situations.

"The object of this study was to assess decision-making processes in Parkinson's Disease patients with and without pathological gambling by asking them and their relatives to take part in a series of tests" says Dr Ramon Leiguarda, an expert in cognitive neurology.

"We found that the patients in the pathological gambling group were more likely to make poor decisions and select disadvantageous alternatives more frequently than advantageous alternatives."

The combination of poor decision-making and abnormal has led the team to conclude that dopamine replacement therapy can induce dysfunction in the areas of the brain that control affective decision making - the ventromedial pre-frontal cortex and amygdala-ventral striatum system.

Six of the seven pathological gamblers who took part in the study were male. At the time of the study they had an average age of 61 and their average age at diagnosis was 52.

Six of the patients had no history of gambling before developing Parkinson's Disease. One patient had played poker with friends for 30 years, but his gambling behaviour exacerbated after starting dopamine replacement therapy and now included roulette and horse racing.

The other six participants said that their preferred type of gambling was slot machines.

Four of the seven displayed other impulse control disorders - two were also compulsive shoppers and two displayed hypersexuality.

"We believe that the behaviour highlighted in our study, combined with previous research into the links between Parkinson's Disease and pathological gambling, point to dopamine replacement therapy causing dysfunction in specific areas of the brain" says Dr Leiguarda.

"Further studies that assess patients recovering from pathological gambling are needed to better understand the physiopathology of this impulse control disorder."

Explore further: Know the brain, and its axons, by the clothes they wear

More information: Decision-making in Parkinson's Disease patients with and without pathological gambling. Rossi et al. European Journal of Neurology. 17, pp 97-102. (January 2010). DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-1331.2009.02792.x

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Compulsive gamblers always down on their luck

Mar 26, 2008

Gambling addicts don't learn from their mistakes, according to a study published today in the open access journal Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health. The problem could be explained by a kind of mental rigidity ...

Addiction: Insights from Parkinson's disease

Feb 25, 2009

A new comprehensive review by researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI), McGill University and the University of Cambridge, England provides vital insights into the neurological basis of addiction by investigating ...

Recommended for you

Know the brain, and its axons, by the clothes they wear

Apr 18, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—It is widely know that the grey matter of the brain is grey because it is dense with cell bodies and capillaries. The white matter is almost entirely composed of lipid-based myelin, but ...

Turning off depression in the brain

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Rapid whole-brain imaging with single cell resolution

Apr 17, 2014

A major challenge of systems biology is understanding how phenomena at the cellular scale correlate with activity at the organism level. A concerted effort has been made especially in the brain, as scientists are aiming to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.