Effects of Low to Moderate Acute Doses of Pramipexole on Impulsivity and Cognition in Healthy Volunteers

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The neurotransmitter dopamine is integrally involved in the rewarding effects of drugs, and it has also been thought to mediate impulsive behaviors in animal models. Most of the studies of drug effects on impulsive behaviors in humans have involved drugs with complex actions on different transmitter systems and different receptor subtypes. The present study was designed to characterize the effect of single doses of pramipexole, a D2/D3 agonist, on measures of cognitive and impulsive behavior, as well as on mood in healthy volunteers. Healthy men and women (N = 10) received placebo and 2 doses of pramipexole, 0.25 and 0.50 mg, in a within-subject, double-blinded study. Outcome measures included changes in cognitive performance, assessed by the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics, several behavioral measures related to impulsive behavior, including the Balloon Analogue Risk Task, Delay Discounting Task, Go/No-Go Task, Card Perseveration Task, and subjective ratings of mood assessed by Addiction Research Center Inventory, Profile of Mood States, and Drug Effects Questionnaire. Pramipexole decreased positive ratings of mood (euphoria, intellectual efficiency, and energy) and increased both subjectively reported sedation and behavioral sedation indicated by impaired cognitive performance on several measures of the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics. Single low to medium doses of this drug did not produce a decrease in impulsive responding on behavioral measures included in this study. The sedative-like effects observed in this study may reflect presynaptic actions of the drug. Higher doses with postsynaptic actions may be needed to produce either behavioral or subjective stimulant-like effects.

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