The Neural Correlates of Upper Limb Motor Blocks in Parkinson's Disease and Their Relation to Freezing of Gait

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Due to basal ganglia dysfunction, bimanual motor performance in Parkinson patients reportedly relies on compensatory brain activation in premotor–parietal–cerebellar circuitries. A subgroup of Parkinson's disease (PD) patients with freezing of gait (FOG) may exhibit greater bimanual impairments up to the point that motor blocks occur. This study investigated the neural mechanisms of upper limb motor blocks and explored their relation with FOG. Brain activation was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging during bilateral finger movements in 16 PD with FOG, 16 without FOG (PD + FOG and PD − FOG), and 16 controls. During successful movement, PD + FOG showed decreased activation in right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), left dorsal premotor cortex (PMd), as well as left M1 and bilaterally increased activation in dorsal putamen, pallidum, as well as subthalamic nucleus compared with PD − FOG and controls. On the contrary, upper limb motor blocks were associated with increased activation in right M1, PMd, supplementary motor area, and left PFC compared with successful movement, whereas bilateral pallidum and putamen activity was decreased. Complex striatofrontal activation changes may be involved in the difficulties of PD + FOG to perform bimanual movements, or sequential movements in general. These novel results suggest that, whatever the exact underlying cause, PD + FOG seem to have reached a saturation point of normal neural compensation and respond belatedly to actual movement breakdown.

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