Disrupted reward processing in Parkinsons disease and its relationship with dopamine state and neuropsychiatric syndromes: a systematic review and meta-analysis


Neuropsychiatric symptoms are common in Parkinson’s disease (PD) and predict poorer outcomes. Reward processing dysfunction is a candidate mechanism for the development of psychiatric symptoms including depression and impulse control disorders (ICDs). We aimed to determine whether reward processing is impaired in PD and its relationship with neuropsychiatric syndromes and dopamine replacement therapy.


The Ovid MEDLINE/PubMed, Embase and PsycInfo databases were searched for articles published up to 5 November 2020. Studies reporting reward processing task performance by patients with PD and healthy controls were included. Summary statistics comparing reward processing between groups were converted to standardised mean difference (SMD) scores and meta-analysed using a random effects model.


We identified 55 studies containing 2578 participants (1638 PD and 940 healthy controls). Studies assessing three subcomponent categories of reward processing tasks were included: option valuation (n=12), reinforcement learning (n=37) and reward response vigour (n=6). Across all studies, patients with PD on medication exhibited a small-to-medium impairment versus healthy controls (SMD=0.34; 95% CI 0.14 to 0.53), with greater impairments observed off dopaminergic medication in within-subjects designs (SMD=0.43, 95% CI 0.29 to 0.57). Within-subjects subcomponent analysis revealed impaired processing off medication on option valuation (SMD=0.57, 95% CI 0.39 to 0.75) and reward response vigour (SMD=0.36, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.59) tasks. However, the opposite applied for reinforcement learning, which relative to healthy controls was impaired on-medication (SMD=0.45, 95% CI 0.25 to 0.65) but not off-medication (SMD=0.28, 95% CI –0.03 to 0.59). ICD was the only neuropsychiatric syndrome with sufficient studies (n=13) for meta-analysis, but no significant impairment was identified compared tonon-ICD patients (SMD=–0.02, 95% CI –0.43 to 0.39).


Reward processing disruption in PD differs according to subcomponent and dopamine medication state, and warrants further study as a potential treatment target and mechanism underlying associated neuropsychiatric syndromes.

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