Salivary cortisol levels in Parkinson's disease and its correlation to risk behaviour

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2011 Oct;82(10):1107-11. doi: 10.1136/jnnp.2011.245746. Epub 2011 Apr 8.


Objective: To investigate salivary cortisol samples in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) with and without impulsive compulsive behaviours (ICB) during a risk task.

Methods: Salivary cortisol levels were measured in 13 PD patients without ICB (PD-ICB) and in 15 PD patients with ICB (PD+ICB) before, after medication and throughout the day, and were compared with results with 14 healthy controls. All participants also performed a gambling task to assess risk taking behaviour.

Results: Significantly higher diurnal cortisol levels were found in the PD-ICB group compared with healthy controls but no differences were seen between the PD+ICB and the control group. Increased cortisol levels were significantly correlated with increased risk taking in PD+ICB patients but no interaction was found in the PD-ICB group.

Conclusions: The findings are in keeping with previous studies which have linked low cortisol levels with antisocial behaviour. The higher cortisol levels during the risk task in the PD+ICB group are consistent with reports in pathological gamblers during gambling and addicts during drug abuse. The results support the hypothesis that cortisol plays an important role in risk taking in ICBs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Compulsive Behavior / blood
  • Compulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Gambling / blood
  • Gambling / psychology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Impulsive Behavior / blood
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Parkinson Disease / blood*
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Statistics as Topic


  • Hydrocortisone