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eNeuro. 2018 Feb 6;5(1). pii: ENEURO.0366-17.2017. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0366-17.2017. eCollection 2018 Jan-Feb.

Subthalamic Neural Activity Patterns Anticipate Economic Risk Decisions in Gambling.

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Translational Neural Engineering Area, The Biorobotics Institute, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Pontedera, 56025, Italy.
Clinical Center for Neurostimulation, Neurotechnology and Movement Disorders Fondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Milan, 20122, Italy.
Movement Disorders Department, Neurological Institute Carlo Besta, Milan, 20133, Italy.
"Aldo Ravelli" Research Center for Neurotechnology and Experimental Brain Therapeutics, Department of Health Sciences, University of Milan Medical School, Milan, Italy.
Bertarelli Foundation Chair in Translational NeuroEngineering, Institute of Bioengineering and Center for Neuroprosthetics, School of Engineering, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, CH-1015, Switzerland.


Economic decision-making is disrupted in individuals with gambling disorder, an addictive behavior observed in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients receiving dopaminergic therapy. The subthalamic nucleus (STN) is involved in the inhibition of impulsive behaviors; however, its role in impulse control disorders and addiction is still unclear. Here, we recorded STN local field potentials (LFPs) in PD patients with and without gambling disorder during an economic decision-making task. Reaction times analysis showed that for all patients, the decision whether to risk preceded task onset. We compared then for both groups the STN LFP preceding high- and low-risk economic decisions. We found that risk avoidance in gamblers correlated with larger STN LFP low-frequency (<12-Hz) fluctuations preceding task onset. In particular, the amplitude of low-frequency LFP fluctuations carried significant information about future decisions. Decisions of patients not affected by gambling disorder were instead not correlated with pretask STN LFP. Our results suggest that STN activity preceding task onset affects risk decisions by preemptively inhibiting attraction to high but unlikely rewards in favor of a long-term payoff.


Gambling disorder; Parkinson’s disease; local field potentials; subthalamic nucleus

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