The effect of dopaminergic medication on conflict adaptation in Parkinson's disease

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Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurological disorder associated primarily with motor symptoms such as tremor, slowness of movement, and difficulties with gait and balance. Most patients take dopaminergic medication to improve their motor functions. Previous studies reported indications that such medication can impair higher cognitive functions (cf. dopamine overdose hypothesis). In the present study, we examined the effect of medication status on conflict adaptation. PD patients performed a Stroop task in which we manipulated the proportion of congruent and incongruent items, thereby allowing us to explore conflict adaptation. The use of mouse movements allowed us to examine the action dynamics of conflict adaptation in PD, and their sensitivity to dopaminergic medication. Each patient performed the same task twice: once without making changes to their regular medication regime, and once after overnight withdrawal from their medication. Results showed that medication improved mouse movements and alleviated motor symptoms. Moreover, patients' mouse movements were modulated as a function of the proportion congruency manipulation, revealing conflict adaptation in PD, which was unaffected by medication status. The present study extends earlier work on conflict adaptation in PD where reduced transient (trial-by-trial) conflict adaptation was observed ON compared to OFF medication (Duthoo et al., 2013, Neuropsychology, 27, 556). Our findings suggest that more sustained cognitive control processes may not be sensitive to dopamine overdose effects.

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