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We are studying how Parkinson’s disease effects motor adaptation and retention.

Rehabilitation is a widely available therapy for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) but its long-term benefits are generally disappointing. The reason for this is uncertain, especially given the fact that people with PD do learn to improve their movements within a single training session. We are testing whether people with PD have a specific difficulty in retaining the motor memory. 

We use a task where the participant controls a cursor with a joystick to chase a red target that initially appears in the centre of the screen then jumps to one of eight points equidistantly located around the perimeter in a random sequence. After some practice we rotate the relationship of joystick to the cursor so that the joystick moves the cursor 60 degrees in an anti-clockwise direction.

Initially the participants miss the target by around 60 degrees, but they rapidly adapt to the rotation and become accurate again (see figure below). In this way we can measure how quickly people learn and how well they can remember what they learn. As can be seen people with PD (red) learn similarly to age matched controls (red) in the initial adaptation phase (labeled A). However if we test both groups 45-minutes later the PD group perform significantly worse than the control group (labeled R). If you look carefully you will see that the people with PD get no better during the second practice session (dotted line) whereas the age-matched controls continue to improve.

People: Muriel Panouilleres, John-Stuart Brittain, Raed Joundi, Ned Jenkinson

Collaborators:  Peter Brown

Current Funders:  Parkinson’s UK & The Oddfellows