Dopaminergic treatments are associated with impulse control disorders such as pathological gambling in a subset of patients with Parkinson's Disease. While deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus has been reported to reduce symptoms of impulse control disorders in some Parkinson's Disease patients, little is known about its specific effects on gambling behaviour. In this experiment, we investigated the effects of deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus on one of the central features of pathological gambling: the tendency to chase losses. Loss-chasing is associated with impaired control over gambling behaviour and it is one of the most salient features of pathological gambling as it presents in the clinic. Twenty two patients with advanced idiopathic Parkinson's Disease and chronically implanted subthalamic nucleus electrodes for deep brain stimulation completed a simple laboratory model of loss-chasing behaviour twice: once with and once without stimulation. Exploratory analysis indicated that deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus increased the value of losses chased by patients with Parkinson's Disease when shifting from off- to on-stimulation. These effects were not attributable to changes in state affect or to the motor impairments produced by the withdrawal of deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus. The effects of the stimulation on the value of losses chased were more pronounced in female than in male patients and reduced in patients taking dopamine receptor agonists. Collectively, these results suggest that deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus can transiently alter the evaluation of accumulated losses during gambling episodes in idiopathic Parkinson's Disease.
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