Increased bradykinesia in Parkinson's disease with increased movement complexity: Elbow flexion–extension movements

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The present research investigates factors contributing to bradykinesia in the control of simple and complex voluntary limb movement in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients. The functional scheme of the basal ganglia (BG)–thalamocortical circuit was described by a mathematical model based on the mean firing rates of BG nuclei. PD was simulated as a reduction in dopamine levels, and a loss of functional segregation between two competing motor modules. In order to compare model simulations with performed movements, flexion and extension at the elbow joint is taken as a test case. Results indicated that loss of segregation contributed to bradykinesia due to interference between competing modules and a reduced ability to suppress unwanted movements. Additionally, excessive neurotransmitter depletion is predicted as a possible mechanism for the increased difficulty in performing complex movements. The simulation results showed that the model is in qualitative agreement with the results from movement experiments on PD patients and healthy subjects. Furthermore, based on changes in the firing rate of BG nuclei, the model demonstrated that the effective mechanism of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) in STN may result from stimulation induced inhibition of STN, partial synaptic failure of efferent projections, or excitation of inhibitory afferent axons even though the underlying methods of action may be quite different for the different mechanisms.

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