Study Looks at Increase of Problem Gambling among Parkinson's Patients

    GUELPH, ON, March 5 /CNW/ - The Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre
(OPGRC) has announced a $209,040 research project to study the increased
incidence of problem gambling among Parkinson's Disease patients who follow a
common drug regimen to cope with the disease. The Institute of Neurosciences,
Mental Health and Addiction (INMHA) and Parkinson Society Canada have agreed
to join the Centre in funding the study.
    Both clinicians and researchers are interested in recent studies
indicating that certain people taking medicine for Parkinson's disease may
engage in compulsive behaviour, including gambling.
    Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease. Movement in the
body is normally controlled by a chemical called dopamine. When brain cells
that produce dopamine die, the symptoms of PD appear. People with PD
experience shaking, as well as difficulty with walking, movement and
co-ordination. Currently there is no cure. It is estimated that about 100,000
Canadians have PD.
    Medications that treat the symptoms of PD include levodopa, which is
converted into dopamine, or dopamine agonists, which are compounds that mimic
the action of dopamine.
    The theory behind the proposed one-year research study is that behaviours
associated with problem gambling in PD may actually be fuelled by the
medications. The result of these behaviours can have devastating consequences
for the individuals and their families.
    Preliminary research has indicated a link for Parkinson's patients being
treated with levodopa, according to Dr. Antonio Strafella who would serve as
the principal investigator in the study.
    Dr. Strafella (Movement Disorders Centre, Toronto Western Hospital,
University Health Network) is a neurologist with expertise in movement
disorders and sub-specialization in neurophysiology and brain imaging. He will
lead a team of researchers from Toronto Western Hospital and the Centre for
Addiction and Mental Health.
    "What we've seen in the very early stages of our research is that the
increased turnover of dopamine activity in the brain contributes to
pathological gambling," Dr. Strafella said.
    "This grant will allow us to look into this area in much greater depth
and will benefit Parkinson's patients as well as people in the general
population by giving us a better understanding of how the brain functions when
it comes to problem gambling."
    The research will focus on a group of 44 Parkinson's patients, fifty per
cent of whom have identified problem gambling behaviours and fifty per cent
who have not.
    The study will employ the use of Positron Emission Technology (PET), an
imaging technique which produces a three-dimensional image or map of
functional processes in the brain.
    Dr. Strafella added it is his hope that the research could provide new
knowledge that eventually may lead to new therapeutic approaches to treat and
prevent problem gambling.

    The OPGRC is an arms-length provincial agency with a mandate that
includes the scientific study of effective prevention and treatment responses
to problem gambling.

    Parkinson Society Canada is a not-for-profit, national charitable
organization whose mission is easing the burden and finding a cure for
Parkinson's disease through research, education, advocacy and support

    The Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (an Institute
of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research) is a national funding agency
that supports innovative research to provide new knowledge of the biological
and socio-cultural processes underlying neurological, mental, and addictive

For further information:

For further information: Judith Glynn, (519) 763-8049 ext. 223,; Dr Richard Briere, Assistant Director, INMHA,
(514) 761-6131

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