Deficits in adaptive upper limb control in response to trunk perturbations in Parkinson's disease

E. Tunik, H. Poizner, S. V. Adamovich, M. F. Levin, A. G. Feldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The ability of patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) to compensate for unexpected perturbations remains relatively unexplored. To address this issue PD subjects were required to compensate at the arm for an unexpected mechanical perturbation of the trunk while performing a trunk-assisted reach. Twelve healthy and nine PD subjects (off medication) performed trunk-assisted reaching movements without vision or knowledge of results to a remembered target in the ipsilateral (T1) or contralateral (T2) workspace. On 60% of the trials trunk motion was unrestrained (free condition). On the remaining 40% of randomly selected trials trunk motion was arrested at movement onset (blocked condition). If subjects appropriately changed arm joint angles to compensate for the trunk arrest, there should be spatial and temporal invariance in the hand trajectories and in the endpoint errors across conditions. The control group successfully changed their arm configuration in a context-dependent manner which resulted in invariant hand trajectory profiles across the free and blocked conditions. More so, they initiated these changes rapidly after the trunk perturbation (group mean 70 ms). Some PD subjects were unable to maintain invariant hand paths and movement errors across conditions. Their hand velocity profiles were also more variable relative to those of the healthy subjects in the blocked-trunk trials but not in the free-trunk trials. Furthermore, the latency of compensatory changes in arm joint angles in movements toward T1 was longer in the PD group (group mean 153 ms). Finally, PD subjects' arm and trunk were desynchronized at movement onset, confirming our previous findings and consistent with PD patients' known problems in the sequential or parallel generation of different movement components. The findings that individual PD subjects were unsuccessful or delayed in producing context-dependent responses at the arm to unexpected perturbations of the trunk suggests that the basal ganglia are important nodes in the organization of adaptive behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-32
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


  • Basal ganglia
  • Motor control
  • Perturbation
  • Reaching


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