Pavlovian bias in Parkinson's disease: an objective marker of impulsivity that modulates with deep brain stimulation

Sci Rep. 2020 Aug 10;10(1):13448. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-69760-y.


Impulsivity is a common symptom in Parkinson's disease (PD). Adaptive behavior is influenced by prepotent action-reward and inaction-avoid loss Pavlovian biases. We aimed to assess the hypothesis that impulsivity in PD is associated with Pavlovian bias, and to assess whether dopaminergic medications and deep brain stimulation (DBS) influence Pavlovian bias. A PD DBS cohort (N = 37) completed a reward-based Go/No-Go task and bias measures were calculated. This DBS cohort completed the task under three conditions: on-med/pre-DBS, off-med/off-DBS, and on-med/on-DBS. Participants also completed self-reported measures of impulsivity. Dopaminergic medication was associated with lower action-reward bias while DBS was associated with higher action-reward bias. Impulsivity was associated with higher action-reward bias but not inaction-avoid loss bias. We furthermore replicated this association in an independent, non-DBS PD cohort (N = 88). Overall we establish an objective behavioral marker of impulsivity and show that DBS affects impulsivity by amplifying automated responding. Our results point to the importance of reward rather than punishment avoidance in driving impulsive behaviors. This work provides insight into the pathophysiological underpinnings of impulsivity and especially medication and DBS-associated impulsivity in PD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Brain / physiology
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / methods
  • Dopamine Agents / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reward
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / physiology


  • Dopamine Agents