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1.  Impaired inhibition of prepotent motor actions in patients with Tourette syndrome 
Evidence that tic behaviour in individuals with Tourette syndrome reflects difficulties inhibiting prepotent motor actions is mixed. Response conflict tasks produce sensitive measures of response interference from prepotent motor impulses and the proficiency of inhibiting these impulses as an act of cognitive control. We tested the hypothesis that individuals with Tourette syndrome show a deficit in inhibiting prepotent motor actions.
Healthy controls and older adolescents/adults with persistent Tourette syndrome without a history of obsessive–compulsive disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and presenting with stable mood functioning (i.e., no history of well-treated anxiety or depression) participated in this study. They performed a Simon task that induced conflict between prepotent actions and goal-directed actions. A novel theoretical framework distinguished group differences in acting impulsively (i.e., fast motor errors) from the proficiency of inhibiting interference by prepotent actions (i.e., slope of interference reduction).
We included 27 controls and 28 individuals with Tourette syndrome in our study. Both groups showed similar susceptibility to making fast, impulsive motor errors (Tourette syndrome 26% v. control 23%; p = 0.10). The slope (m) reduction of the interference effect was significantly less pronounced among participants with Tourette syndrome than controls (Tourette syndrome: m = −0.07 v. control: m = −0.23; p = 0.022), consistent with deficient inhibitory control over prepotent actions in Tourette syndrome.
This study does not address directly the role of psychiatric comorbidities and medication effects on inhibitory control over impulsive actions in individuals with Tourette syndrome.
The results offer empirical evidence for deficient inhibitory control over prepotent motor actions in individuals with persistent Tourette syndrome with minimal to absent psychiatric comorbidities. These findings also suggest that the frontal–basal ganglia circuits involved in suppressing unwanted motor actions may underlie deficient inhibitory control abilities in individuals with Tourette syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3756119  PMID: 23820185
2.  Handedness and motor symptom asymmetry in Parkinson’s disease 
The objective of this study was to confirm whether an association between handedness and the side of symptom onset exists and to evaluate the impact of this association on specific clinical characteristics of Parkinson’s disease (PD).
1173 PD patients were identified from a clinical database. Patients with asymmetrical onset (n=1015) were divided into those with dominant-side onset and those with non-dominant-side onset, and the clinical characteristics of the two subgroups were compared.
In our PD sample, 86.5% of patients presented asymmetrically. There was a significant association between handedness and the side of the initial symptom; that is, the dominant side was affected first in the majority of both left- and right-handed patients. Compared with patients with non-dominant side onset, more patients with dominant-side onset presented with bradykinesia, while fewer patients presented with gait difficulty. Patients with dominant-side onset were diagnosed and began dopaminergic medication after a longer symptom duration than patients with non-dominant-side onset. The only difference in Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale scores between the two groups was in a subscore addressing dominant-hand tasks.
An association exists between the dominant hand and the side of the initial motor symptom in PD. Whether the initial symptom occurs on the dominant or non-dominant side has implications for the reported first symptom, the time to diagnosis and the time to dopaminergic treatment initiation. The side of disease onset does not affect the severity of disease, as measured by the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale.
PMCID: PMC3729350  PMID: 20861062
3.  Patient Characterization Protocols for Psychophysiological Studies of Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-TBI Psychiatric Disorders 
Psychophysiological investigations of traumatic brain injury (TBI) are being conducted for several reasons, including the objective of learning more about the underlying physiological mechanisms of the pathological processes that can be initiated by a head injury. Additional goals include the development of objective physiologically based measures that can be used to monitor the response to treatment and to identify minimally symptomatic individuals who are at risk of delayed-onset neuropsychiatric disorders following injury. Research programs studying TBI search for relationships between psychophysiological measures, particularly ERP (event-related potential) component properties (e.g., timing, amplitude, scalp distribution), and a participant’s clinical condition. Moreover, the complex relationships between brain injury and psychiatric disorders are receiving increased research attention, and ERP technologies are making contributions to this effort. This review has two objectives supporting such research efforts. The first is to review evidence indicating that TBI is a significant risk factor for post-injury neuropsychiatric disorders. The second objective is to introduce ERP researchers who are not familiar with neuropsychiatric assessment to the instruments that are available for characterizing TBI, post-concussion syndrome, and psychiatric disorders. Specific recommendations within this very large literature are made. We have proceeded on the assumption that, as is typically the case in an ERP laboratory, the investigators are not clinically qualified and that they will not have access to participant medical records.
PMCID: PMC3717660  PMID: 23885250
cognitive assessment; neuropsychiatric assessment; resilience; sociological assessment
4.  Differential susceptibility to motor impulsivity among functional subtypes of Parkinson’s disease 
Background and objectives
Parkinson’s disease patients with predominant postural instability and gait difficulties (PIGD) may experience unique cognitive difficulties compared to patients with tremor predominant (TD) symptoms. PIGD patients are also at high risk for falling, and some of the worst fallers seem to react impulsively to their environment. We tested the hypothesis that PIGD patients show poorer control over motor impulses compared to TD patients.
34 PD participants were divided into predominant PIGD (n=17) or TD (n=17) functional subtypes based on their presenting symptoms in their optimally treated motor state. All participants performed a speeded reaction task that quantified motor impulsivity and the proficiency of inhibiting prepotent motor impulses.
The groups showed similar reaction times, but compared to TD patients, PIGD patients made significantly more impulsive motor errors. Notably, when the initial impulsive erroneous response was avoided, PIGD and TD groups were similar in their ability to suppress the incorrect motor impulse from further interfering with the selection of a correct action.
PD patients with PIGD predominant symptoms show greater susceptibility to acting on prepotent motor impulses compared to TD patients. This finding may have direct implications for fall risk and also points to dissociable neurocognitive pathologies in TD and PIGD subtypes. Clinically, the use of specific cognitive instruments to assess the expression and inhibition of motor impulses may help identify PD patients who have difficulty ‘thinking before they leap’ and are at high risk of falling.
PMCID: PMC3704227  PMID: 22917670
5.  Trends and Issues in Characterizing Early Cognitive Changes in Parkinson's Disease 
In this review, we first discuss trends and issues in measuring cognitive changes in PD, including recent efforts to define the diagnostic classification of “PD Mild Cognitive Impairment” (PD-MCI). After reviewing some limitations associated with this diagnosis, we discuss how measures derived from the neurocognitive sciences offer better precision in detecting early cognitive changes in PD. To support this idea, we highlight 2 influential lines of current investigation that are unveiling novel insights about specific cognitive processes that are vulnerable early in PD and of critical importance to clinicians involved in treating PD: action control and reward learning and decision making. We conclude by highlighting some extant issues and unresolved questions for future investigations.
PMCID: PMC3692293  PMID: 22949166
Parkinson disease; Mild cognitive impairment; Action control; Reward
6.  The Risky Business of Dopamine Agonists in Parkinson Disease and Impulse Control Disorders 
Behavioral neuroscience  2011;125(4):492-500.
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.
PMCID: PMC3144294  PMID: 21604834
Impulse Control Disorders; Dopamine Agonists; Parkinson Disease; Risk behavior
8.  A Tribute to Charlie Chaplin: Induced Positive Affect Improves Reward-Based Decision-Learning in Parkinson’s Disease 
Reward-based decision-learning refers to the process of learning to select those actions that lead to rewards while avoiding actions that lead to punishments. This process, known to rely on dopaminergic activity in striatal brain regions, is compromised in Parkinson’s disease (PD). We hypothesized that such decision-learning deficits are alleviated by induced positive affect, which is thought to incur transient boosts in midbrain and striatal dopaminergic activity. Computational measures of probabilistic reward-based decision-learning were determined for 51 patients diagnosed with PD. Previous work has shown these measures to rely on the nucleus caudatus (outcome evaluation during the early phases of learning) and the putamen (reward prediction during later phases of learning). We observed that induced positive affect facilitated learning, through its effects on reward prediction rather than outcome evaluation. Viewing a few minutes of comedy clips served to remedy dopamine-related problems associated with frontostriatal circuitry and, consequently, learning to predict which actions will yield reward.
PMCID: PMC3374413  PMID: 22707944
Parkinson’s disease; positive affect; frontostriatal circuitry; probabilistic learning
9.  Subthalamic nucleus stimulation influences expression and suppression of impulsive behaviour in Parkinson’s disease 
Brain  2010;133(12):3611-3624.
Past studies show beneficial as well as detrimental effects of subthalamic nucleus deep-brain stimulation on impulsive behaviour. We address this paradox by investigating individuals with Parkinson’s disease treated with subthalamic nucleus stimulation (n = 17) and healthy controls without Parkinson’s disease (n = 17) on performance in a Simon task. In this reaction time task, conflict between premature response impulses and goal-directed action selection is manipulated. We applied distributional analytic methods to separate the strength of the initial response impulse from the proficiency of inhibitory control engaged subsequently to suppress the impulse. Patients with Parkinson’s disease were tested when stimulation was either turned on or off. Mean conflict interference effects did not differ between controls and patients, or within patients when stimulation was on versus off. In contrast, distributional analyses revealed two dissociable effects of subthalamic nucleus stimulation. Fast response errors indicated that stimulation increased impulsive, premature responding in high conflict situations. Later in the reaction process, however, stimulation improved the proficiency with which inhibitory control was engaged to suppress these impulses selectively, thereby facilitating selection of the correct action. This temporal dissociation supports a conceptual framework for resolving past paradoxical findings and further highlights that dynamic aspects of impulse and inhibitory control underlying goal-directed behaviour rely in part on neural circuitry inclusive of the subthalamic nucleus.
PMCID: PMC2995881  PMID: 20861152
Parkinson’s disease; deep-brain stimulation; response inhibition; impulsivity; subthalamic nucleus
The Activities of Daily Living (ADL) subscore of the UPDRS captures the impact of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) on daily function and may be less affected than other subsections by variability associated with drug cycle and motor fluctuations. We examined UPDRS mentation, ADL and motor subscores in 888 patients with idiopathic PD. Multiple linear regression analyses determined the association between disease duration and UPDRS subscores as a function of medication status at examination and in a subset of patients with multiple examinations. Independent of medication status and across cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses, ADL subscores showed a stronger and more stable association with disease duration than other UPDRS subscores after adjusting for age of disease onset. The association between disease duration and the motor subscore depended on medication status. The strong association between ADL subscore and disease duration in PD suggests that this measure may serve as a better marker of disease progression than signs and symptoms assessed in other UPDRS sections.
PMCID: PMC3103833  PMID: 18951537
11.  The Effect of Parkinson's Disease on the Dynamics of On-line and Proactive Cognitive Control during Action Selection 
Journal of cognitive neuroscience  2010;22(9):2058-2073.
Processing irrelevant visual information sometimes activates incorrect response impulses. The engagement of cognitive control mechanisms to suppress these impulses and make proactive adjustments to reduce the future impact of incorrect impulses may rely on the integrity of frontal–basal ganglia circuitry. Using a Simon task, we investigated the effects of basal ganglia dysfunction produced by Parkinson's disease (PD) on both on-line (within-trial) and proactive (between-trial) control efforts to reduce interference produced by the activation of an incorrect response. As a novel feature, we applied distributional analyses, guided by the activation–suppression model, to differentiate the strength of incorrect response activation and the proficiency of suppression engaged to counter this activation. For situations requiring on-line control, PD (n = 52) and healthy control (n = 30) groups showed similar mean interference effects (i.e., Simon effects) on reaction time (RT) and accuracy. Distributional analyses showed that although the strength of incorrect response impulses was similar between the groups PD patients were less proficient at suppressing these impulses. Both groups demonstrated equivalent and effective proactive control of response interference on mean RT and accuracy rates. However, PD patients were less effective at reducing the strength of incorrect response activation proactively. Among PD patients, motor symptom severity was associated with difficulties in on-line, but not in proactive, control of response impulses. These results suggest that basal ganglia dysfunction produced by PD has selective effects on cognitive control mechanisms engaged to resolve response conflict, with primary deficits in the on-line suppression of incorrect responses occurring in the context of a relatively spared ability to adjust control proactively to minimize future conflict.
PMCID: PMC2923490  PMID: 19702465
12.  To Head or to Heed? Beyond the Surface of Selective Action Inhibition: A Review 
To head rather than heed to temptations is easier said than done. Since tempting actions are often contextually inappropriate, selective suppression is invoked to inhibit such actions. Thus far, laboratory tasks have not been very successful in highlighting these processes. We suggest that this is for three reasons. First, it is important to dissociate between an early susceptibility to making stimulus-driven impulsive but erroneous actions, and the subsequent selective suppression of these impulses that facilitates the selection of the correct action. Second, studies have focused on mean or median reaction times (RT), which conceals the temporal dynamics of action control. Third, studies have focused on group means, while considering individual differences as a source of error variance. Here, we present an overview of recent behavioral and imaging studies that overcame these limitations by analyzing RT distributions. As will become clear, this approach has revealed variations in inhibitory control over impulsive actions as a function of task instructions, conflict probability, and between-trial adjustments (following conflict or following an error trial) that are hidden if mean RTs are analyzed. Next, we discuss a selection of behavioral as well as imaging studies to illustrate that individual differences are meaningful and help understand selective suppression during action selection within samples of young and healthy individuals, but also within clinical samples of patients diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or Parkinson's disease.
PMCID: PMC3004391  PMID: 21179583
action control; response inhibition; prefrontal cortex; basal ganglia; interference control

Results 1-13 (13)