Visual-spatial working memory (WM) impairment is frequently associated with the early stage of Parkinson's disease (PD). The aim of this study was to evaluate the performance of a group of PD patients in visual-spatial and visual-object WM tasks and to investigate the effect of administering the dopaminergic agonist apomorphine (experiment 1) or the dopamine precursor L-dopa (experiment 2) on the performance of tests assessing these functions. To study WM processes, the PD patients and age-matched normal controls were given an n-back task paradigm. In both experiments, the PD patients were submitted to two evaluations: one after a 12-hour therapy washout and the other 15 min after a subcutaneous infusion of apomorphine (average 0.04 mg/kg) or 20/30 min after L-dopa intake (200 mg p.o.). The apomorphine infusion had a worsening effect on reaction times in both visual-spatial and visual-object WM tasks, but it did not influence performance accuracy. Instead, L-dopa administration had a ameliorative effect on accuracy and reaction times in both visual-spatial and visual-object tasks. These results highlight the role of dopamine in the modulation of the WM function in PD patients.
Copyright 2003 S. Karger AG, Basel