Huntington's Disease is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder, associated with
problems in judgment and decision-making. The extent of these problems, and their
association with clinical characteristics has however, only recently been assessed
(Stout, Rodawalt, Siemers, 2001). Parallels are often drawn between the
behavioural disturbances in Huntington's disease and those observed with damage
to the frontal lobes. Indeed an anatomical basis for these similarities does exist
because of the connectivity of the basal ganglia and the frontal cortex, within several
frontal-subcortical circuits (Cummings, 1993).
In view of these identified similarities, this study aimed to examine decision-making
deficits in individuals with Huntington's disease and asymptomatic disease gene
carriers using a laboratory-based simulated gambling task. This task has been used
to quantify similar decision-making deficits in ventromedial frontal lobe damaged
participants (Bechara, Damasio & Anderson, 1994). Judgement deficits were
assessed using a theory of mind test, examining the ability to recognise a faux-pas.
This test has been used to assess deficits in individuals with damage to the orbitofrontal cortex (Stone, Baron-Cohen, & Knight, 1998).
For this study, 14 symptomatic, 10 asymptomatic, and 13 controls completed the
simulated gambling task, the faux-pas task, and a neuropsychological test battery. It
was hypothesised that both symptomatic and asymptomatic Huntington's disease
participants would demonstrate deficits in comparison to controls on the gambling
task and the faux-pas task. Results are discussed with reference to previous