Dopamine Agonists and Pathologic Behaviors

Kelley et al.
PubMed Central

The dopamine agonists ropinirole and pramipexole exhibit highly specific affinity for the cerebral dopamine D3 receptor. Use of these medications in Parkinson’s disease has been complicated by the emergence of pathologic behavioral patterns such as hypersexuality, pathologic gambling, excessive hobbying, and other circumscribed obsessive-compulsive disorders of impulse control in people having no history of such disorders. These behavioral changes typically remit following discontinuation of the medication, further demonstrating a causal relationship. Expression of the D3 receptor is particularly rich within the limbic system, where it plays an important role in modulating the physiologic and emotional experience of novelty, reward, and risk assessment. Converging neuroanatomical, physiological, and behavioral science data suggest the high D3 affinity of these medications as the basis for these behavioral changes. These observations suggest the D3 receptor as a therapeutic target for obsessive-compulsive disorder and substance abuse, and improved understanding of D3 receptor function may aid drug design of future atypical antipsychotics.

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