Researchers at Sant Pau have recently published in the Annals of Neurology a study that shows that the presence of depression in Parkinson’s patients is a risk factor in the appearance of behavioural addictions. The work has been led by Dr. Jaume Kulisevsky, head of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Group at the IIB Sant Pau and head of the Movement Disorders Unit of the Neurology Service at the Sant Pau Hospital, and Dr. Juan Marín Lahoz of the same group and unit.

Parkinson’s disease is mainly known for the tremors and mobility difficulties it generates. Many patients whose treatment allows them to have normal mobility have behavioural addictions such as pathological gambling, hypersexuality or compulsive shopping. The consequences of these disorders can be devastating for patients and their families. For this reason, researchers are working to identify patients at risk of behavioural addiction with the aim of carrying out personalised treatments to reduce the risk. Depression is a very common disorder in Parkinson’s disease that can affect up to 40% of patients at some point. It often appears a few years before the diagnosis of the disease. In recent years, some studies have shown that the symptoms of depression were more frequent in patients with behavioural addictions than in those who did not have them. However, it was not known if depression was a consequence of suffering addictions or if it could be a precursor of addictions. “What we wanted to confirm is that depression plays a role in the onset of behavioral addictions in Parkinson’s disease, we showed how depression precedes the onset of addictions up to 5 years and that the risk depends on other factors, such as age or the main genes associated with Parkinson’s disease,” explains Dr. Kulisevsky.

“There were some risk markers of behavioural addictions, but their application required complex techniques such as the analysis of multiple genes, so far have not led to any change in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, but the presence of depression is a risk factor very easily identifiable in a conventional visit which allows to customize the treatment to obtain the maximum quality of life of each patient, “adds Dr. Marin. The study was carried out within the framework of the PPMI (Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative) study promoted by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for the Parkinson’s study. This study tracks about 1,500 people worldwide to understand and cure Parkinson’s disease. This project has been financed with grants from the Fundación La Marató de TV3, the Fondo de Investigación en Salud and the CIBER de Enfermedades neurodegenerativas of the Instituto de Salud Carlos III.

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