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Eur J Neurosci. 2017 Jan;45(1):67-72. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13396. Epub 2016 Oct 1.

Pathological gambling in Parkinson's disease: what are the risk factors and what is the role of impulsivity?

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Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Charité Campus Mitte, Charitéplatz 1, 10117, Berlin, Germany.


The incidence of pathological gambling in Parkinson's patients is significantly greater than in the general population. A correlation has been observed between dopamine agonist medication and the development of pathological gambling. However, scientists conjecture that the affected patients have underlying risk factors. Studies analysing Parkinson's patients have detected that patients who developed pathological gambling are younger, score higher on novelty-seeking tests, are more impulsive and are more likely to have a personal or family history of alcohol addiction. In addition, some genetic variations have been associated with the susceptibility of developing pathological gambling, which include mutations of DRD3, 5-HTTLPR and GRIN2B. Studies focusing on neurofunctional discrepancies between Parkinson's patients with and without pathological gambling have found increased functional activation and dopamine release in regions associated with the mesolimbic reward system. Furthermore, there is also evidence showing increased processing of reward and decreased activation elicited by punishment, suggesting altered learning processes. Furthermore, the role of deep brain stimulation of the nucleus subthalamicus (STN DBS) is controversial. In most Parkinson's patients, pathological gambling resolved after the initiation of the STN DBS, which might be explained by discontinuation or decrease in dopamine agonist medication. However, it has been also shown that some patients are more impulsive while the STN DBS is activated. These differences may depend on the DBS localization in the more limbic or motor part of the STN and their regulative effects on impulsivity. Further research is needed to clarify susceptibility factors for the development of pathological gambling in Parkinson's patients.


Parkinson's disease; STN DBS; dopamine; gambling disorder; impulsivity; pathological gambling

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