Perceptual decision-making in patients with Parkinson's disease

J Psychopharmacol. 2014 Dec;28(12):1149-54. doi: 10.1177/0269881114548437. Epub 2014 Sep 18.


Impulsive choice and poor information sampling have been found to be key behavioural mechanisms linked to impulse control disorders (ICDs) in Parkinson's disease (PD). Perceptual decision-making is intimately related to information sampling. Therefore, we wanted to determine whether dopaminergic medication or ICDs influence perceptual decision-making in PD. All participants performed two tasks. One was a simple reaction time task, where subjects needed to respond as quickly as possible. The second was a perceptual decision-making task, in which participants had to estimate whether a stimulus contained either more red or more blue pixels. We tested three groups of patients, one treated with levodopa monotherapy, one additionally treated with dopamine agonists, and a third group had ICDs. Results were compared to healthy controls. We found that all patients made more errors than controls. Further, patients with ICDs responded fastest on the reaction time task and also in incorrect trials on the perceptual decision-making task. Similarly, patients with dopamine agonists responded faster than those on levodopa monotherapy and controls. Our results demonstrate that all patients have deficits in perceptual decision-making. However, patients treated with dopamine agonists closely resembled patients with ICDs.

Keywords: Compulsivity; Parkinson’s disease; decision-making; dopamine; impulse control disorders; impulsivity; reaction time.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Color Perception Tests*
  • Decision Making / drug effects*
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / complications
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / drug therapy
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / psychology*
  • Dopamine Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Levodopa / pharmacology*
  • Levodopa / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parkinson Disease / complications
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology*
  • Reaction Time / drug effects*


  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Levodopa