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Parkinsons' drug helps older people to make decisions
Date:3/24/2013

opamine in the brain. L-DOPA, more commonly known as Levodopa, is widely used in the clinic to treat Parkinson's.

The participants were asked to complete a behavioural learning task called the two-arm bandit, which mimics the decisions that gamblers make while playing slot machines. Players were shown two images and had to choose the one that they thought would give them the biggest reward. Their performance before and after drug treatment was assessed by the amount of money they won in the task.

"The older volunteers who were less able to predict the likelihood of a reward from their decisions, and so performed worst in the task, showed a significant improvement following drug treatment," Dr Chowdhury explains.

The team then looked at brain activity in the participants as they played the game using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), and measured connections between areas of the brain that are involved in reward prediction using a technique called Diffusor Tensor Imaging (DTI).

The findings reveal that the older adults who performed best in the gambling game before drug treatment had greater integrity of their dopamine pathways. Older adults who performed poorly before drug treatment were not able to adequately signal reward expectation in the brain this was corrected by L-DOPA and their performance improved on the drug.

Dr John Williams, Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the Wellcome Trust, said: "This careful investigation into the subtle cognitive changes that take place as we age offers important insights into what may happen at both a functional and anatomical level in older people who have problems with making decisions. That the team were able to reverse these changes by manipulating dopamine levels offers the hope of therapeutic approaches that could allow older people to function more effectively in the wider community."


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Contact: Jen Middleton
j.middleton@wellcome.ac.uk
44-207-611-7262
Wellcome Trust
Source:Eurekalert

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