Learning and retention of movement sequences in Parkinson's disease

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The purpose of this study was to examine motor learning and retention given extensive practice in two fundamentally different movement sequences. One sequence was a memory-driven task (performing a series of whole body positions from memory) and the other a context-driven task (buttoning). Practice took place over 3 weeks, with performance measured weekly; retention was measured weekly for 3 weeks after practice. There were 7 people with Parkinson's disease (PD) and 7 age-matched neurologically healthy people who participated in this study. Both groups improved performance on both tasks with practice, with the majority of the change for the PD group occurring between 1 and 2 weeks of practice. Although those with PD did not necessarily perform as well as age-matched controls, they learned both sequences in a manner similar to age-matched controls, and exhibited retention across the 3-week retention interval. If people with PD are given sufficient practice they can learn and retain both memory-based and context-driven movement sequences as well as age-matched controls. The results provide support for maintaining physical activity and for intervention through movement therapy. © 2006 Movement Disorder Society

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