Basal ganglia-dependent processes in recalling learned visual-motor adaptations

Exp Brain Res. 2011 Mar;209(3):385-93. doi: 10.1007/s00221-011-2561-y. Epub 2011 Feb 11.


Humans learn and remember motor skills to permit adaptation to a changing environment. During adaptation, the brain develops new sensory-motor relationships that become stored in an internal model (IM) that may be retained for extended periods. How the brain learns new IMs and transforms them into long-term memory remains incompletely understood since prior work has mostly focused on the learning process. A current model suggests that basal ganglia, cerebellum, and their neocortical targets actively participate in forming new IMs but that a cerebellar cortical network would mediate automatization. However, a recent study (Marinelli et al. 2009) reported that patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), who have basal ganglia dysfunction, had similar adaptation rates as controls but demonstrated no savings at recall tests (24 and 48 h). Here, we assessed whether a longer training session, a feature known to increase long-term retention of IM in healthy individuals, could allow PD patients to demonstrate savings. We recruited PD patients and age-matched healthy adults and used a visual-motor adaptation paradigm similar to the study by Marinelli et al. (2009), doubling the number of training trials and assessed recall after a short and a 24-h delay. We hypothesized that a longer training session would allow PD patients to develop an enhanced representation of the IM as demonstrated by savings at the recall tests. Our results showed that PD patients had similar adaptation rates as controls but did not demonstrate savings at both recall tests. We interpret these results as evidence that fronto-striatal networks have involvement in the early to late phase of motor memory formation, but not during initial learning.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Aged
  • Basal Ganglia / physiopathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*