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Novelty-Seeking Traits Found Frequently in Screening Parkinson’s Disease Patients: Presented at ANA

Thursday October 19, 2006

Ed Susman

October 11, 2006(Doctor’s Guide) - Compulsive behaviors -- especially traits of novelty seeking -- appear to be a common occurrence in individuals with Parkinson’s disease, according to research presented here at the American Neurological Association (ANA) 131st Annual Meeting.

"Although dopaminergic medication has been implicated in the development of compulsive behaviors, underlying personality traits such as novelty seeking may be significant risk factors for the development of these behaviors," said Jennifer Hui, MD, assistant professor of neurology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California.

There have been reports of compulsive gambling and hypersexuality among patients taking the newer dopamine agonists. To confirm the presence of a link, Dr. Hui and colleagues screened 48 patients with Parkinson’s disease.

They identified 13 individuals (27.1%) as having compulsive behaviors. In these patients, the researchers were able to distinguished a total of 29 compulsive behaviors.

"Three of these people had 4 different behaviors, and 1 person was identified with 5 different compulsive behaviors," Dr. Hui said at her poster presentation October 10th.

However, her team could not distinguish whether these behaviors existed before disease onset, as a consequence of the disease or as a consequence of treatment with dopamine agonists. "That, of course, is the big picture," she said.

She cautioned that jumping to the conclusion that the behaviors are modulated by the drugs may prove to be inaccurate. "We need further studies to figure that out," she said.

Her findings did determine that compulsive behavior is associated with younger patients with Parkinson’s disease. In her study, patients without compulsive behaviors averaged 75 years of age, while those with compulsive behaviors averaged 62 years of age. That age differential was highly statistically significant.

She also determined that those with compulsive behaviors had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease for a longer period of time -- 6.5 years on average versus 3 years on average for those who did not have these behaviors.

Patients identified with compulsive behaviors also tended to be more likely to express novelty-seeking traits (P = .009). The patients with compulsive behaviors were more likely to score higher on the Beck Depression Inventory as well.

However, the researchers did not find a significant correlation between use of dopamine agonists and compulsive behavior.