Deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus increases premature responding in a rat gambling task

Lily R. Aleksandrova, Meaghan C. Creed, Paul J. Fletcher, Daniela S.S. Lobo, Clement Hamani, José N. Nobrega

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26 Scopus citations


Deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus (STN-DBS) is a treatment option for the motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD). However, several recent studies have found an association between STN-DBS and increased impulsivity. Currently, it is not clear whether the observed increase in impulsivity results from STN-DBS per se, or whether it involves an interaction with the underlying PD neuropathology and/or intake of dopaminergic drugs. We investigated the effects of STN-DBS on performance of intact rats on two tasks measuring impulsive responding: a novel rat gambling task (rGT) and a differential reinforcement of low rate responding (DRL20s) schedule. Following initial behavioural training, animals received electrode implantation into the STN (n=24) or sham surgery (n=24), and were re-tested on their assigned behavioural task, with or without STN-DBS. Bilateral STN-DBS administered for two hours immediately prior to testing, had no effects on rGT choice behaviour or on DRL response inhibition (p>. 0.05). However, STN-DBS significantly increased premature responding in the rGT task (p=0.0004), an effect that took several sessions to develop and persisted in subsequent trials when no stimulation was given. Consistent with the notion of distinct facets of impulsivity with unique neurochemical underpinnings, we observed differential effects of STN-DBS in the two tasks employed. These results suggest that STN-DBS in the absence of parkinsonism may not lead to a general loss of inhibitory control, but may instead affect impulsivity under specific conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-82
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
StatePublished - May 5 2013


  • High-frequency stimulation
  • Impulsivity
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Rat Gambling Task


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