Effects of asymmetric dopamine depletion on sensitivity to rewarding and aversive stimuli in Parkinson's disease

Sari Maril, Sharon Hassin-Baer, Oren S. Cohen, Rachel Tomer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The onset and progression of Parkinson's disease (PD) motor symptoms is generally asymmetric, reflecting differential extent of nigral pathology and resulting dopamine depletion in each of the hemispheres. Given the role of dopamine in processing rewarding and aversive events, and considering findings associating asymmetric neural activity with differential sensitivity to positive and negative stimuli, the current study examined the possibility that dopamine asymmetry in PD is related to differential approach and avoidance tendencies. An original task assessing and comparing sensitivity to positive and negative probabilistic feedback was administered to 29 right-handed participants with idiopathic PD, 16 with predominant right-side and 13 with predominant left-side motor symptoms, to compare the two groups. As dopamine replacement therapy (DRT) has shown different effects on reward and punishment processing, all participants were assessed in both off- and on-medication states. As predicted, when off medication, participants with relatively greater dopamine deficit in the left hemisphere minimized losses better than they increased gains, while those with a greater right hemisphere deficit showed a trend toward the opposite pattern. Medication reversed the relationship between gain and loss sensitivity in the left-hemisphere PD group, but not in the right-hemisphere group. Particularly in the left-hemisphere PD group, findings support the possibility that subcortical dopaminergic asymmetry is reflected in behaviorally-expressed approach and avoidance tendencies. Furthermore, the effects of DRT on approach and avoidance appear to interact with asymmetry, shedding light on previous conclusions regarding the role of dopamine in reinforcement processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)818-824
Number of pages7
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the patients who participated in this study. We also thank Andrei Markus for programming the original task. This work was supported by the Bharier Medical Fund , in memory of Nat and Sophie Bharier.


  • Approach
  • Avoidance
  • Dopamine
  • Hemispheric asymmetry
  • Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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