Risky behaviour in Parkinson patients explained

Washington: Scientists have explained Parkinson`s patients` risky behaviour, a rare side effect of standard treatments for the disease.

According to researchers, the finding has implications for future medication of patients.

The treatments, which work by increasing dopamine signalling in the brain, can trigger highly risky behaviours, known as ``impulsive-compulsive spectrum behaviours” (ICBs) in approximately 5-10 percent of patients.

Scientists explain this as impaired self-control combined with surprisingly normal motivation – patients with ICB tend to take shortcuts with smaller returns over delayed but larger benefits.

The researchers hope that this study might help in the identification and treatment of ICBs in the future.

"Some patients end up gambling away their life savings while others run up huge credit card debts. This work sheds light on the reasons behind such behaviours, and may help to treat sufferers of Parkinson`s disease in the future," said Charlotte Housden who carried out the work at UCL`s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, and is now at the University of Cambridge.

In an experiment, the researchers proved that, for example, PD patients preferred to receive 50 pounds today or 80 pounds in a month`s time. They were considerably more likely to choose smaller immediate payments over larger but delayed ones on the questionnaire that measured a form of impulsivity called "delay discounting".

Housden said that neurologists, instead of decreasing the dose of the drugs, should treat this impulsivity. She added that treating impulsivity in Parkinson`s disease patients with ICBs with drugs used to treat other types of impulsive behaviours might reduce their risky behaviours without worsening their primary symptoms.


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