Cue-induced striatal dopamine release in Parkinson's disease-associated impulsive-compulsive behaviours

Brain. 2011 Apr;134(Pt 4):969-78. doi: 10.1093/brain/awr003. Epub 2011 Feb 24.


Impulsive-compulsive behaviours are a significant source of morbidity for patients with Parkinson's disease receiving dopaminergic therapy. The development of these behaviours may reflect sensitization of the neural response to non-drug rewards, similar to that proposed for sensitization to drug rewards in addiction. Here, by using (11)C-raclopride positron emission tomography imaging, we investigated the effects of reward-related cues and L-dopa challenge in patients with Parkinson's disease with and without impulsive-compulsive behaviours on striatal levels of synaptic dopamine. Eighteen patients (11 with and seven without impulsive-compulsive behaviours) underwent three (11)C-raclopride positron emission tomography scans. The impulsive-compulsive behaviours included hypersexuality, binge eating, punding, compulsive use of dopamine replacement therapy, compulsive buying and pathological gambling, with eight patients exhibiting more than one impulsive-compulsive behaviour. There were no significant differences in baseline dopamine D2 receptor availability between the Parkinson's disease groups. No differences were found when comparing the percentage change of raclopride binding potential between the two Parkinson's disease groups following L-dopa challenge with neutral cues. The group with Parkinson's disease with impulsive-compulsive behaviours had a greater reduction of ventral striatum (11)C-raclopride binding potential following reward-related cue exposure, relative to neutral cue exposure, following L-dopa challenge (16.3% compared with 5.8% in Parkinson's disease controls, P = 0.016). The heightened response of striatal reward circuitry to heterogeneous reward-related visual cues among a group of patients with different impulsive-compulsive behaviours is consistent with a global sensitization to appetitive behaviours with dopaminergic therapy in vulnerable individuals. Our findings are relevant for the broader debate on the relation between impulsive-compulsive behaviours and addictions and may have important implications with regards to advertisement legislation in an effort to prevent the onset of behavioural addictions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain Mapping
  • Compulsive Behavior / complications
  • Compulsive Behavior / diagnostic imaging
  • Compulsive Behavior / metabolism*
  • Corpus Striatum / diagnostic imaging
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism*
  • Cues
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / complications
  • Impulsive Behavior / diagnostic imaging
  • Impulsive Behavior / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parkinson Disease / complications
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism*
  • Radionuclide Imaging


  • Dopamine