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A reward now or later? Exploring impulsivity in Parkinson’s disease patients

23 February 2019
The new research has been published in Journal of Neurology

Promises of food, sums of money or entertaining pastimes: it does not matter what the temptation is, a new study shows that patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease who are treated with Deep Brain Stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus are not more impulsive than others when making decisions about a stimulus that they find particularly appealing. “Deep Brain Stimulation” (DBS) is an effective surgical technique widely used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. However, the same technique can expose patients to changes in behaviour and in decision-making processes, for example towards food.

This alteration could make them adopt risk behaviours. And yet, a study, conducted by a team led by Marilena Aiello and Raffaella Rumiati, Director of Laboratorio Neuroscienze e Società of SISSA, in association with the “Ospedali Riuniti” of Trieste and the “Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria” Santa Maria della Misericordia of Udine and published on Journal of Neurology, has found that these alterations do not seem to affect all forms of decision. To establish this, the scientists devised and conducted an experiment, which placed the patients in front of a crucial choice: have a small prize immediately or a bigger one, later. The results that emerged from the research add an important element to understanding the disease and the benefits and problems of the DBS technique, opening up interesting clinical and research prospects. (Image by rawpixel on Unsplash)