The preparation and execution of saccadic eye and goal directed hand movements in patients with Parkinson's disease
The oculomotor and manual motor systems were studied in a two-segment movement task in a group of patients with Parkinson's disease and in age matched normal controls. In order to avoid reflexive motor movements the selection of the correct motor sequence was derived from the interpretation of symbolic (coloured) cues. The latencies and dynamics of eye and hand (pointing) movements performed during the first (fixed) movement segment were measured and the planning and execution processes were manipulated by varying the complexity of the second movement segment relative to the first (with regard to direction and amplitude). The results showed that the eye and hand movements made by patients with Parkinson's disease were not impaired in the initiation of the first movement segment. Interestingly, both Parkinson's patients and controls showed increased eye and hand reaction time latencies for the first movement when the second movement was in the direction opposite to the first. This indicates that the complexity of the second movement influences the execution of the first movement, and importantly that complexity affects motor initiation and execution processes in both normal subjects and in patients with Parkinson's disease. The execution of hand movements was found to be impaired in patients with Parkinson's disease as indicated by a reduced peak velocity of manual pointing responses when compared to age matched controls. By contrast, no differences were found in the dynamics of saccadic eye movements. This dissociation is consistent with the notion that the skeletomotor loop passes through the functionally corresponding portions of the basal ganglia independently of the oculomotor loop. Together, these results demonstrate that Parkinson's patients are able to generate multiple non-reflexive eye and hand movements and that the observed (manual) motor deficits are specific to the processes of motor execution.