The neurobehavioral underpinnings of pathological gambling are not well understood. Insight might be gained by understanding pharmacological effects on the reward system in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Treatment with dopamine agonists (DAs) has been associated with pathological gambling in PD patients. However, how DAs are involved in the development of this form of addiction is unknown. We tested the hypothesis that tonic stimulation of dopamine receptors specifically desensitizes the dopaminergic reward system by preventing decreases in dopaminergic transmission that occurs with negative feedback. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we studied PD patients during three sessions of a probabilistic reward task in random order: off medication, after levodopa (LD) treatment, and after an equivalent dose of DA (pramipexole). For each trial, a reward prediction error value was computed using outcome, stake, and probability. Pramipexole specifically changed activity of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in two ways that were both associated with increased risk taking in an out-of-magnet task. Outcome-induced activations were generally higher with pramipexole compared with LD or off medication. In addition, only pramipexole greatly diminished trial-by-trial correlation with reward prediction error values. Further analysis yielded that this resulted mainly from impaired deactivation in trials with negative errors in reward prediction. We propose that DAs prevent pauses in dopamine transmission and thereby impair the negative reinforcing effect of losing. Our findings raise the question of whether pathological gambling may in part stem from an impaired capacity of the OFC to guide behavior when facing negative consequences.
PMID: 19741594 CAMSID: cams1534
fMRI; impulse control disorder; dopamine agonist; reward; addiction; reinforcement
Pramipexole and other direct dopamine agonist medications have been implicated in the development of impulsive behavior such as pathological gambling among those taking the drug to control symptoms of Parkinson’s disease or restless leg syndrome. Few laboratory studies examining pramipexole’s effects on gambling-like behavior have been conducted.
The present study used a rodent model approximating some aspects of human gambling to examine within-subject effects of acute pramipexole (0.03, 0.1, 0.18, & 0.3 mg/kg) on rat’s choices to earn food reinforcement by completing variable-ratio (i.e., gambling-like) or fixed-ratio response requirements.
In a condition in which the variable-ratio alternative was rarely selected, all but the lowest dose of pramipexole significantly increased choice of the variable-ratio alternative (an average of 15% above saline).. The same doses did not affect choice significantly in a control condition designed to evaluate the involvement of nonspecific drug effects. Pramipexole increased latencies to initiate trials (+ 9.12 s) and to begin response runs on forced-choice trials (variable-ratio: + 0.21 s; fixed-ratio: + 0.88 s), but did not affect measures of response perseveration (conditional probabilities of “staying”).
The findings are consistent with clinical reports linking pramipexole to the expression of increased gambling in humans. Results are discussed in the context of neurobehavioral evidence suggesting that dopamine agonists increase sensitivity to reward delay and disrupt appropriate feedback from negative outcomes.
pramipexole; dopamine agonist; gambling; impulsive behavior; Parkinson’s disease; rat
Clinical reports, primarily with Parkinson’s patients, note an association between the prescribed use of pramipexole (and other direct-acting dopamine agonist medications) and impulse control disorders, particularly pathological gambling. Two experiments examined the effects of acute pramipexole on rats’ impulsive choices where impulsivity was defined as selecting a smaller-sooner over a larger-later food reward. In Experiment 1, pramipexole (0.1 to 0.3 mg/kg) significantly increased impulsive choices in a condition in which few impulsive choices were made during a stable baseline. In a control condition, in which impulsive choices predominated during baseline, pramipexole did not significantly change the same rats’ choices. Experiment 2 explored a wider range of doses (0.01 to 0.3 mg/kg) using a choice procedure in which delays to the larger-later reinforcer delivery increased across trial blocks within each session. At the doses used in Experiment 1, pramipexole shifted choice toward indifference regardless of the operative delay. At lower doses of pramipexole (0.01 & 0.03 mg/kg), a trend toward more impulsive choice was observed at the 0.03 mg/kg dose. The difference in outcomes across experiments may be due to the more complex discriminations required in Experiment 2; i.e., multiple discriminations between changing delays within each session.
Pramipexole; D2/D3 agonist; Impulsivity; Choice; Gambling
Pramipexole (PPX) is a dopamine agonist medication that has been implicated in the development of pathological gambling and other impulse control disorders. Johnson, Madden, Brewer, Pinkston, and Fowler (2011) reported that PPX increased male rats’ preference for gambling-like rewards (those arranged according to a variable-ratio schedule) over predictable rewards (those obtained from a fixed-ratio schedule). The present experiment explored the possibility that Johnson et al. underestimated the effects of PPX on gambling-like choices by constraining their rats’ daily income. In the present experiment conducted in a closed economy, PPX produced a dose-related increase in choice of the gambling-like alternative. In a control condition, PPX did not disrupt choice, suggesting the increased preference for gambling-like rewards was not due to nonspecific drug effects. Our findings are qualitatively consistent with those of Johnson et al., although the dose-related effect and larger effect size in the current study suggest that the effect of PPX on gambling-like choices is more pronounced when income was not constrained. This finding is consistent with clinical reports suggesting PPX is related to the development of problem gambling in humans.
pramipexole; dopamine agonist; gambling; Parkinson’s disease; rat
The dopaminergic system, particularly D2-like dopamine receptors, has been strongly implicated in reward processing. Animal studies have emphasized the role of phasic dopamine (DA) signaling in reward-related learning, but these processes remain largely unexplored in humans.
To evaluate the effect of a single, low dose of a D2/D3 agonist—pramipexole—on reinforcement learning in healthy adults. Based on prior evidence indicating that low doses of DA agonists decrease phasic DA release through autoreceptor stimulation, we hypothesized that 0.5 mg of pramipexole would impair reward learning due to presynaptic mechanisms.
Using a double-blind design, a single 0.5 mg dose of pramipexole or placebo was administered to 32 healthy volunteers, who performed a probabilistic reward task involving a differential reinforcement schedule as well as various control tasks.
As hypothesized, response bias toward the more frequently rewarded stimulus was impaired in the pramipexole group, even after adjusting for transient adverse effects. In addition, the pramipexole group showed reaction time and motor speed slowing and increased negative affect; however, when adverse physical side effects were considered, group differences in motor speed and negative affect disappeared.
These findings show that a single low dose of pramipexole impaired the acquisition of reward-related behavior in healthy participants, and they are consistent with prior evidence suggesting that phasic DA signaling is required to reinforce actions leading to reward. The potential implications of the present findings to psychiatric conditions, including depression and impulse control disorders related to addiction, are discussed.
Dopamine; D2 agonists; Reward Processing; Depression; Mesolimbic System; Addiction
The dopamine agonists ropinirole and pramipexole exhibit highly specific affinity for the cerebral dopamine D3 receptor. Use of these medications in Parkinson's disease has been complicated by the emergence of pathologic behavioral patterns such as hypersexuality, pathologic gambling, excessive hobbying, and other circumscribed obsessive-compulsive disorders of impulse control in people having no history of such disorders. These behavioral changes typically remit following discontinuation of the medication, further demonstrating a causal relationship. Expression of the D3 receptor is particularly rich within the limbic system, where it plays an important role in modulating the physiologic and emotional experience of novelty, reward, and risk assessment. Converging neuroanatomical, physiological, and behavioral science data suggest the high D3 affinity of these medications as the basis for these behavioral changes. These observations suggest the D3 receptor as a therapeutic target for obsessive-compulsive disorder and substance abuse, and improved understanding of D3 receptor function may aid drug design of future atypical antipsychotics.
In patients with Parkinson's disease, aberrant or excessive dopaminergic stimulation is commonly indicated as the trigger factor in unmasking impulse control disorders (ICDs) such as pathological gambling. We had the opportunity to follow a patient who experienced Parkinson's disease 7 years ago when he was using pramipexole and again, recently, when he was treated with levodopa (L-dopa) and low frequency stimulation of the nucleus of the pedunculopontine tegmentus (PPTg) but no dopamine agonists. The same patient had shown, when studied with fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography in the condition PPTg-ON, a peculiar increased activity in the left ventral striatum. This case report confirms that, in a predisposed personality, ICD may arise from the perturbation of endogenous pathways, which connect the brainstem to the basal ganglia.
Parkinson's disease is characterized by the degeneration of dopaminergic pathways projecting to the striatum. These pathways are implicated in reward prediction. In this study, we investigated reward and punishment processing in young, never-medicated Parkinson's disease patients, recently medicated patients receiving the dopamine receptor agonists pramipexole and ropinirole and healthy controls. The never-medicated patients were also re-evaluated after 12 weeks of treatment with dopamine agonists. Reward and punishment processing was assessed by a feedback-based probabilistic classification task. Personality characteristics were measured by the temperament and character inventory. Results revealed that never-medicated patients with Parkinson's disease showed selective deficits on reward processing and novelty seeking, which were remediated by dopamine agonists. These medications disrupted punishment processing. In addition, dopamine agonists increased the correlation between reward processing and novelty seeking, whereas these drugs decreased the correlation between punishment processing and harm avoidance. Our finding that dopamine agonist administration in young patients with Parkinson's disease resulted in increased novelty seeking, enhanced reward processing, and decreased punishment processing may shed light on the cognitive and personality bases of the impulse control disorders, which arise as side-effects of dopamine agonist therapy in some Parkinson's disease patients.
Parkinson's disease; reward; novelty seeking; dopamine; pramipexole; ropinirole
Risk-taking behavior is characterized by pursuit of reward in spite of potential negative consequences. Dopamine neurotransmission along the mesocorticolimbic pathway is a potential modulator of risk behavior. In patients with Parkinson's Disease (PD), impulse control disorder (ICD) can result from dopaminergic medication use, particularly Dopamine Agonists (DAA). Behaviors associated with ICD include hypersexuality as well as compulsive gambling, shopping, and eating, and are potentially linked to alterations to risk processing. Using the Balloon Analogue Risk task, we assessed the role of agonist therapy on risk-taking behavior in PD patients with (n=22) and without (n=19) active ICD symptoms. Patients performed the task both ‘on’ and ‘off’ DAA. DAA increased risk-taking in PD patients with active ICD symptoms, but did not affect risk behavior of PD controls. DAA dose was also important in explaining risk behavior. Both groups similarly reduced their risk-taking in high compared to low risk conditions and following the occurrence of a negative consequence, suggesting that ICD patients do not necessarily differ in their ability to process and adjust to some aspects of negative consequences. Our findings suggest dopaminergic augmentation of risk-taking behavior as a potential contributing mechanism for the emergence of ICD in PD patients.
Impulse Control Disorders; Dopamine Agonists; Parkinson Disease; Risk behavior
Behavioral decisions and actions are directed to achieve specific goals and to obtain rewards and escape punishments. Previous studies involving the recording of neuronal activity suggest the involvement of the cerebral cortex, basal ganglia, and midbrain dopamine system in these processes. The value signal of the action options is represented in the striatum, updated by reward prediction errors, and used for selecting higher-value actions. However, it remains unclear whether dysfunction of the striatum leads to impairment of value-based action selection. The present study examined the effect of inactivation of the putamen via local injection of the GABAA receptor agonist muscimol in monkeys engaged in a manual reward-based multi-step choice task. The monkeys first searched a reward target from three alternatives, based on the previous one or two choices and their outcomes, and obtained a large reward; they then earned an additional reward by choosing the last rewarded target. Inactivation of the putamen impaired the ability of monkeys to make optimal choices during third trial in which they were required to choose a target different from those selected in the two previous trials by updating the values of the three options. The monkeys normally changed options if the last choice resulted in small reward (lose-shift) and stayed with the last choice if it resulted in large reward (win-stay). Task start time and movement time during individual trials became longer after putamen inactivation. But monkeys could control the motivation level depending on the reward value of individual trial types before and after putamen inactivation. These results support a view that the putamen is involved selectively and critically in neuronal circuits for reward history-based action selection.
Putamen; Muscimol; Reward; Reinforcement learning; Decision-making
Impulse control disorders are common in Parkinson's; disease, occurring in 13.6% of patients. Using a pharmacological manipulation and a novel risk taking task while performing functional magnetic resonance imaging, we investigated the relationship between dopamine agonists and risk taking in patients with Parkinson's; disease with and without impulse control disorders. During functional magnetic resonance imaging, subjects chose between two choices of equal expected value: a ‘Sure’ choice and a ‘Gamble’ choice of moderate risk. To commence each trial, in the ‘Gain’ condition, individuals started at $0 and in the ‘Loss’ condition individuals started at −$50 below the ‘Sure’ amount. The difference between the maximum and minimum outcomes from each gamble (i.e. range) was used as an index of risk (‘Gamble Risk’). Sixteen healthy volunteers were behaviourally tested. Fourteen impulse control disorder (problem gambling or compulsive shopping) and 14 matched Parkinson's; disease controls were tested ON and OFF dopamine agonists. Patients with impulse control disorder made more risky choices in the ‘Gain’ relative to the ‘Loss’ condition along with decreased orbitofrontal cortex and anterior cingulate activity, with the opposite observed in Parkinson's; disease controls. In patients with impulse control disorder, dopamine agonists were associated with enhanced sensitivity to risk along with decreased ventral striatal activity again with the opposite in Parkinson's; disease controls. Patients with impulse control disorder appear to have a bias towards risky choices independent of the effect of loss aversion. Dopamine agonists enhance sensitivity to risk in patients with impulse control disorder possibly by impairing risk evaluation in the striatum. Our results provide a potential explanation of why dopamine agonists may lead to an unconscious bias towards risk in susceptible individuals.
Parkinson's; disease; dopamine; gambling; decision making; risk
Animal findings have highlighted the modulatory role of phasic dopamine (DA) signaling in incentive learning, particularly in the acquisition of reward-related behavior. In humans, these processes remain largely unknown. In a recent study we demonstrated that a single low dose of a D2/D3 agonist (pramipexole) – assumed to activate DA autoreceptors and thus reduce phasic DA bursts – impaired reward learning in healthy subjects performing a probabilistic reward task. The purpose of the present study was to extend these behavioral findings using event-related potentials and computational modeling. Compared to the placebo group, participants receiving pramipexole showed increased feedback-related negativity to probabilistic rewards and decreased activation in dorsal anterior cingulate regions previously implicated in integrating reinforcement history over time. Additionally, findings of blunted reward learning in participants receiving pramipexole were simulated by reduced presynaptic DA signaling in response to reward in a neural network model of striatal-cortical function. These preliminary findings offer important insights on the role of phasic DA signals on reinforcement learning in humans, and provide initial evidence regarding the spatio-temporal dynamics of brain mechanisms underlying these processes.
The dopamine agonist pramipexole (PPX) can increase impulsiveness, and PPX therapy for neurological diseases (Parkinson's disease (PD) and restless leg syndrome) is associated with impulse control disorders (ICDs) in subpopulations of treated patients. A commonly reported ICD is pathological gambling of which risk taking is a prominent feature. Probability discounting is a measurable aspect of risk taking. We recently developed a probability discounting paradigm wherein intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) serves as the positive reinforcer. Here we used this paradigm to determine the effects of PPX on discounting. We included assessments of a rodent model of PD, wherein 6-OHDA was injected into the dorsolateral striatum of both hemispheres, which produced persistent PD-like deficits in posture adjustment. Rats were trained to perform ICSS-mediated probability discounting, in which PD-like and control groups exhibited similar profiles. Rats were treated twice daily for 2 weeks with 2 mg/kg (±)PPX (ie, 1 mg/kg of the active form), a dose that improved lesion-induced motor deficits. In both groups, (±)PPX increased discounting; preference for the large reinforcer was enhanced 30–45% at the most uncertain probabilities. Tolerance did not develop with repeated treatments. Increased discounting subsided within 2 weeks of (±)PPX cessation, and re-exposure to (±)PPX reinstated heightened discounting. Such findings emulate the clinical scenario; therefore, ICSS for discounting assessments in rats exhibited high face validity. This model should prove useful in medication development where assessment of the propensity of a putative therapy to induce risk-taking behaviors is of interest.
pramipexole; probability discounting; 6-OHDA; gambling; rat; reward; animal models; dopamine; addiction & substance abuse; movement disorders; pramipexole; probability discounting; 6-OHDA; gambling; rat
Pathological gambling is an impulse control disorder reported in association with dopamine agonists used to treat Parkinson’s disease. Although impulse control disorders are conceptualized as lying within the spectrum of addictions, little neurobiological evidence exists to support this belief. Functional imaging studies have consistently demonstrated abnormalities of dopaminergic function in patients with drug addictions, but to date no study has specifically evaluated dopaminergic function in Parkinson’s disease patients with impulse control disorders. We describe results of a [11C] raclopride positron emission tomography (PET) study comparing dopaminergic function during gambling in Parkinson’s disease patients, with and without pathological gambling, following dopamine agonists. Patients with pathological gambling demonstrated greater decreases in binding potential in the ventral striatum during gambling (13.9%) than control patients (8.1%), likely reflecting greater dopaminergic release. Ventral striatal bindings at baseline during control task were also lower in patients with pathological gambling. Although prior imaging studies suggest that abnormality in dopaminergic binding and dopamine release may be markers of vulnerability to addiction, this study presents the first evidence of these phenomena in pathological gambling. The emergence of pathological gambling in a number of Parkinson’s disease patients may provide a model into the pathophysiology of this disorder.
PMID: 19346328 CAMSID: cams2369
Parkinson’s disease; dopamine; impulse control disorders; pathological gambling; PET; functional imaging
Dopaminergic medication-related Impulse Control Disorders (ICDs) such as pathological gambling and compulsive shopping have been reported in Parkinson disease (PD).
We hypothesized that dopamine agonists (DAs) would be associated with greater impulsive choice, or greater discounting of delayed rewards, in PD patients with ICDs (PDI).
Fourteen PDI patients, 14 PD controls without ICDs and 16 medication-free matched normal controls were tested on (i) the Experiential Discounting Task (EDT), a feedback-based intertemporal choice task, (ii) spatial working memory and (iii) attentional set shifting. The EDT was used to assess impulsivity choice (hyperbolic K-value), reaction time (RT) and decision conflict RT (the RT difference between high conflict and low conflict choices). PDI patients and PD controls were tested on and off DA.
On the EDT, there was a group by medication interaction effect [F(1,26)=5.62; p=0.03] with pairwise analyses demonstrating that DA status was associated with increased impulsive choice in PDI patients (p=0.02) but not in PD controls (p=0.37). PDI patients also had faster RT compared to PD controls F(1,26)=7.51 p=0.01]. DA status was associated with shorter RT [F(3,24)=8.39, p=0.001] and decision conflict RT [F(1,26)=6.16, p=0.02] in PDI patients but not in PD controls. There were no correlations between different measures of impulsivity. PDI patients on DA had greater spatial working memory impairments compared to PD controls on DA (t=2.13, df=26, p=0.04).
Greater impulsive choice, faster RT, faster decision conflict RT and executive dysfunction may contribute to ICDs in PD.
dopamine agonist; gambling; impulse control; Parkinson disease; delay discounting
Depression is characterised partly by blunted reactions to reward. However, tasks probing this deficiency have not distinguished insensitivity to reward from insensitivity to the prediction errors for reward that determine learning and are putatively reported by the phasic activity of dopamine neurons. We attempted to disentangle these factors with respect to anhedonia in the context of stress, Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Bipolar Disorder (BPD) and a dopaminergic challenge.
Six behavioural datasets involving 392 experimental sessions were subjected to a model-based, Bayesian meta-analysis. Participants across all six studies performed a probabilistic reward task that used an asymmetric reinforcement schedule to assess reward learning. Healthy controls were tested under baseline conditions, stress or after receiving the dopamine D2 agonist pramipexole. In addition, participants with current or past MDD or BPD were evaluated. Reinforcement learning models isolated the contributions of variation in reward sensitivity and learning rate.
MDD and anhedonia reduced reward sensitivity more than they affected the learning rate, while a low dose of the dopamine D2 agonist pramipexole showed the opposite pattern. Stress led to a pattern consistent with a mixed effect on reward sensitivity and learning rate.
Reward-related learning reflected at least two partially separable contributions. The first related to phasic prediction error signalling, and was preferentially modulated by a low dose of the dopamine agonist pramipexole. The second related directly to reward sensitivity, and was preferentially reduced in MDD and anhedonia. Stress altered both components. Collectively, these findings highlight the contribution of model-based reinforcement learning meta-analysis for dissecting anhedonic behavior.
Anhedonia; Major depressive disorder; Depression; Reinforcement learning; Reward learning; Prediction error; Computational; Meta-analysis; Reward sensitivity; Learning rate
Impulse control disorders such as pathological gambling (PG) are a serious and common adverse effect of dopamine (DA) replacement medication in Parkinson’s disease (PD). Patients with PG have increased impulsivity and abnormalities in striatal DA, in common with behavioural and substance addictions in the non-PD population. To date, no studies have investigated the role of extrastriatal dopaminergic abnormalities in PD patients with PG. We used the PET radiotracer, [11C] FLB-457, with high-affinity for extrastriatal DA D2/3 receptors. 14 PD patients on DA agonists were imaged while they performed a gambling task involving real monetary reward and a control task. Trait impulsivity was measured with the Barratt Impulsivity Scale (BIS). Seven of the patients had a history of PG that developed subsequent to DA agonist medication. Change in [11C] FLB-457 binding potential (BP) during gambling was reduced in PD with PG patients in the midbrain, where D2/D3 receptors are dominated by autoreceptors. The degree of change in [11C] FLB-457 binding in this region correlated with impulsivity. In the cortex, [11C] FLB-457 BP was significantly greater in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in PD patients with PG during the control task, and binding in this region was also correlated with impulsivity. Our findings provide the first evidence that PD patients with PG have dysfunctional activation of DA autoreceptors in the midbrain and low DA tone in the ACC. Thus, altered striatal and cortical DA homeostasis may incur vulnerability for the development of PG in PD, linked with the impulsive personality trait.
PMID: 22766031 CAMSID: cams2373
Parkinson’s disease; Dopamine agonists; Pathological gambling; Impulsivity
In humans and other animals the vigor with which a reward is pursued depends on its desirability, that is, on the reward’s predicted value. Predicted value is generally context dependent, varying according to the value of rewards obtained in the recent and distant past. Signals related to reward prediction and valuation are believed to be encoded in a circuit centered around midbrain dopamine neurons and their targets in the prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia. Notably absent from this hypothesized reward pathway are dopaminergic targets in the medial temporal lobe. Here we show that a key part of the medial temporal lobe memory system previously reported to be important for sensory mnemonic and perceptual processing, the rhinal cortex (Rh), is required for using memories of previous reward values to predict the value of forthcoming rewards. We tested monkeys with bilateral Rh lesions on a task in which reward size varied across blocks of uncued trials. In this experiment, the only cues for predicting current reward value are the sizes of rewards delivered in previous blocks. Unexpectedly, monkeys with Rh ablations, but not intact controls, were insensitive to differences in predicted reward, responding as if they expected all rewards to be of equal magnitude. Thus, it appears that Rh is critical for using memory of previous rewards to predict the value of forthcoming rewards. These results are in agreement with accumulating evidence that Rh is critical for establishing the relationships between temporally interleaved events, which is a key element of episodic memory.
To optimize behavior organisms evaluate the risks and benefits of available choices. The mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system encodes information about response costs and reward delays that bias choices. However, it remains unclear whether subjective value associated with risk-taking behavior is encoded by DA release.
Here, rats (n = 11) were trained on a risk-based decision making task in which visual cues predicted the opportunity to respond for smaller certain (safer) or larger uncertain (riskier) rewards. Following training, DA release within the NAc was monitored on a rapid time scale using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry during the risk-based decision making task.
Individual differences in risk-taking behavior were observed as animals displayed a preference for either safe or risky rewards. When only one response option was available, reward predictive cues evoked increases in DA concentration in the NAc core that scaled with each animal’s preferred reward contingency. However, when both options were presented simultaneously, cue-evoked DA release signaled the animals preferred reward contingency, regardless of the future choice. Further, DA signaling in the NAc core also tracked unexpected presentations or omissions of rewards following prediction error theory.
These results suggest that the dopaminergic projections to the NAc core encode the subjective value of future rewards that may function to influence future decisions to take risks.
risk-taking; dopamine; nucleus accumbens; decision making; reward; value
Phasic dopamine transmission encodes the value of reward-predictive stimuli and influences both learning and decision-making. Altered dopamine signaling is associated with psychiatric conditions characterized by risky choices such as pathological gambling. These observations highlight the importance of understanding how dopamine neuron activity is modulated. While excitatory drive onto dopamine neurons is critical for generating phasic dopamine responses, emerging evidence suggests that inhibitory signaling also modulates these responses. To address the functional importance of inhibitory signaling in dopamine neurons, we generated mice lacking the β3 subunit of the GABAA receptor specifically in dopamine neurons (β3-KO mice) and examined their behavior in tasks that assessed appetitive learning, aversive learning, and risk preference. Dopamine neurons in midbrain slices from β3-KO mice exhibited attenuated GABA-evoked inhibitory post-synaptic currents. Furthermore, electrical stimulation of excitatory afferents to dopamine neurons elicited more dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens of β3-KO mice as measured by fast-scan cyclic voltammetry. β3-KO mice were more active than controls when given morphine, which correlated with potential compensatory upregulation of GABAergic tone onto dopamine neurons. β3-KO mice learned faster in two food-reinforced learning paradigms, but extinguished their learned behavior normally. Enhanced learning was specific for appetitive tasks, as aversive learning was unaffected in β3-KO mice. Finally, we found that β3-KO mice had enhanced risk preference in a probabilistic selection task that required mice to choose between a small certain reward and a larger uncertain reward. Collectively, these findings identify a selective role for GABAA signaling in dopamine neurons in appetitive learning and decision-making.
Reinforcement learning; reward-prediction; fast-scan cyclic voltammetry; electrophysiology; aversive learning; gambling
Clinical evidence suggests that after initiation of dopaminergic medications some patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) develop psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the neurocognitive basis of this phenomenon can be defined as the formation of arbitrary and illusory associations between conditioned stimuli and reward signals, called aberrant salience. Young, never-medicated PD patients and matched controls were assessed on a speeded reaction time task in which the probe stimulus was preceded by conditioned stimuli that could signal monetary reward by color or shape. The patients and controls were re-evaluated after 12 weeks during which the patients received a dopamine agonist (pramipexole or ropinirole). Results indicated that dopamine agonists increased both adaptive and aberrant salience in PD patients, that is, formation of real and illusory associations between conditioned stimuli and reward, respectively. This effect was present when associations were assessed by means of faster responding after conditioned stimuli signaling reward (implicit salience) and overt rating of stimulus–reward links (explicit salience). However, unusual feelings and experiences, which are subclinical manifestations of psychotic-like symptoms, were specifically related to irrelevant and illusory stimulus–reward associations (aberrant salience) in PD patients receiving dopamine agonists. The learning of relevant and real stimulus–reward associations (adaptive salience) was not related to unusual experiences. These results suggest that dopamine agonists may increase psychotic-like experiences in young patients with PD, possibly by facilitating dopaminergic transmission in the ventral striatum, which results in aberrant associations between conditioned stimuli and reward.
Parkinson's disease; dopamine agonists; psychosis; reward; salience; cognition; neuropharmacology; dopamine; cognition; learning and memory; Parkinson's disease; reward; dopamine agonists
The dopaminergic system, and in particular the dopamine D2 receptor, has been profoundly implicated in reward mechanisms in the brain. Dysfunction of the D2 dopamine receptors leads to aberrant substance seeking behaviour (alcohol, drug, tobacco, and food) and other related behaviours (pathological gambling, Tourette's syndrome, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). We propose that variants of the D2 dopamine receptor gene are important common genetic determinants of the 'reward deficiency syndrome'.
Impulsivity is widely regarded as a multidimensional trait that encompasses two or more distinct patterns of behavior, and dopaminergic systems are implicated in the expression of impulsive behavior in both humans and animals. Impulsive choice, or the tendency to choose rewards associated with relatively little or no delay, has been extensively studied in humans and animals using delay discounting tasks. Here, delay discounting procedures were used to assess the effects of receptor-selective dopaminergic agonists, antagonists, and dopamine transporter ligands on choices of immediate versus delayed sucrose pellets. The effects of d-amphetamine, GBR 12909, apomorphine, SKF 81297, sumanirole, pramipexole, ABT-724, SCH 23390, L-741,626, PG01037, and L-745,870 were assessed in 24 Sprague Dawley rats. The only drugs to affect impulsive choice selectively without altering undelayed choice were the D1-like antagonist SCH 23390 (0.01 mg/kg) and the D4 partial agonist ABT-724 (3.2 mg/kg), which both increased impulsive choice. The shared effects of these compounds may be explained by their localization within the prefrontal cortex on different groups of neurons. None of the selective agonists and antagonists tested reduced impulsive choice, so further research is needed to determine if direct dopaminergic agonists or antagonists may be therapeutically useful in the treatment of impulse-control disorders.
Delay discounting; inter-temporal choice; impulsive choice; impulsivity; self control; dopamine; SCH 23390; ABT-724; rat
In models of dopaminergic neuronal loss, the dopamine agonist pramipexole has exhibited neuroprotective properties. The Pramipexole On Underlying Disease (PROUD) study was designed to identify whether early versus delayed pramipexole initiation has clinical and neuroimaging benefits in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD).
Between May 24, 2006, and April 22, 2009, at 98 centres, we recruited patients with PD diagnosed within 2 years and aged 30–79 years. We randomly assigned eligible patients (ratio 1:1), by a centralised, computerised randomisation schedule, to receive double-blind either placebo or pramipexole (1·5 mg a day) and followed them up for 15 months. At 9 months, or as early as 6 months if considered necessary, placebo recipients were assigned to pramipexole. In a neuroimaging substudy, striatal dopamine-transporter binding was assessed by SPECT. All patients, investigators, and independent raters were masked to study treatment. The primary endpoint was the 15-month change from baseline in total score on the unified Parkinson's disease rating scale (UPDRS). This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00321854.
Of 535 patients, 261 were randomly assigned to receive pramipexole and 274 to receive placebo. At 15 months (n=411), adjusted mean change in UPDRS total score showed no significant difference between early and delayed pramipexole (−0·4 points, 95% CI −2·2 to 1·4, p=0·65). 62 patients in the early pramipexole group and 61 patients in the delayed pramipexole group were included in the neuroimaging substudy, for which the adjusted mean 15-month change in striatal 123I-FP-CIT binding was −15·1% (SE 2·1) for early and −14·6% (2·0) for delayed pramipexole (difference −0·5 percentage points, 95% CI −5·4 to 4·4, p=0·84). Overall, 180 (81%) of patients given early pramipexole and 179 (84%) patients given delayed pramipexole reported adverse events (most frequently nausea), and 22 (10%) patients in the early pramipexole group and 17 (8%) in the delayed pramipexole group had serious events, two of which (hallucinations and orthostatic hypotension) were deemed related to study drug.
By clinical and neuroimaging measures, pramipexole showed little evidence differentiating 15-month usage from usage delayed for 6–9 months. The results do not support the hypothesis that pramipexole has disease-modifying effects.
Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH.
Situations where rewards are unexpectedly obtained or withheld represent opportunities for new learning. Often, this learning includes identifying cues that predict reward availability. Unexpected rewards strongly activate midbrain dopamine neurons. This phasic signal is proposed to support learning about antecedent cues by signaling discrepancies between actual and expected outcomes, termed a reward prediction error. However, it is unknown whether dopamine neuron prediction error signaling and cue-reward learning are causally linked. To test this hypothesis, we manipulated dopamine neuron activity in rats in two behavioral procedures, associative blocking and extinction, that illustrate the essential function of prediction errors in learning. We observed that optogenetic activation of dopamine neurons concurrent with reward delivery, mimicking a prediction error, was sufficient to cause long-lasting increases in cue-elicited reward-seeking behavior. Our findings establish a causal role for temporally-precise dopamine neuron signaling in cue-reward learning, bridging a critical gap between experimental evidence and influential theoretical frameworks.