Learning sequence movements in a homogenous sample of patients with Parkinson's disease

Neuropsychologia. 2006;44(10):1653-62. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.03.021. Epub 2006 May 3.


We investigated the acquisition of sequence movements in Parkinson's disease (PD) by means of the serial reaction time (SRT) task. To this end, we used a sample of PD patients that fell within the same stage of the disease. Sixteen PD patients and 16 age-, sex- and education-matched control subjects performed the SRT task with a first-order conditional (FOC) sequence and with a second-order conditional (SOC) sequence. The results showed that the group of PD patients could be divided into two distinct subgroups: a fast PD patient subgroup (n=11) and a slow PD patient subgroup (n=5). FOC and SOC sequence learning in faster PD patients proved to be highly comparable to the group of controls. In contrast, learning of FOC and SOC sequences was severely impaired in slower PD patients. Since slow PD patients also scored lower on measures of cognitive functioning than faster PD patients, we assume that the deficits in SRT learning of the former reflect some more general cognitive impairment. This indicates that SRT performance can provide additional information about the cognitive abilities of PD patients, and accordingly may contribute to disease screening.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Practice, Psychological
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Serial Learning / physiology*