Multiple modes of impulsivity in Parkinson’s disease.


Cognitive problems are a major factor determining quality of life of patients with Parkinson's disease. These include deficits in inhibitory control, ranging from subclinical alterations in decision-making to severe impulse control disorders. Based on preclinical studies, we proposed that Parkinson's disease does not cause a unified disorder of inhibitory control, but rather a set of impulsivity factors with distinct psychological profiles, anatomy and pharmacology. We assessed a broad set of measures of the cognitive, behavioural and temperamental/trait aspects of impulsivity. Sixty adults, including 30 idiopathic Parkinson's disease patients (Hoehn and Yahr stage I-III) and 30 healthy controls, completed a neuropsychological battery, objective behavioural measures and self-report questionnaires. Univariate analyses of variance confirmed group differences in nine out of eleven metrics. We then used factor analysis (principal components method) to identify the structure of impulsivity in Parkinson's disease. Four principal factors were identified, consistent with four different mechanisms of impulsivity, explaining 60% of variance. The factors were related to (1) tests of response conflict, interference and self assessment of impulsive behaviours on the Barrett Impulsivity Scale, (2) tests of motor inhibitory control, and the self-report behavioural approach system, (3) time estimation and delay aversion, and (4) reflection in hypothetical scenarios including temporal discounting. The different test profiles of these four factors were consistent with human and comparative studies of the pharmacology and functional anatomy of impulsivity. Relationships between each factor and clinical and demographic features were examined by regression against factor loadings. Levodopa dose equivalent was associated only with factors (2) and (3). The results confirm that impulsivity is common in Parkinson's disease, even in the absence of impulse control disorders, and that it is not a unitary phenomenon. A better understanding of the structure of impulsivity in Parkinson's disease will support more evidence-based and effective strategies to treat impulsivity.