Walking in circles: navigation deficits from Parkinson's disease but not from cerebellar ataxia

Neuroscience. 2011 Sep 8;190:177-83. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.06.020. Epub 2011 Jun 14.


Little is known on the role of neuronal structures for spatial navigation. Our goal was to examine how Parkinson's disease (PD) and cerebellar ataxia, as human lesion models of the basal ganglia and cerebellum, affect spatial navigation round a circular walking path, blindfolded. Twelve subjects with idiopathic PD (ON and OFF medication), eight subjects with cerebellar ataxia and a control group of 20 age-matched healthy subjects participated. All groups performed well when walking around the circle with eyes open. In the eyes-closed condition, control subjects overshot the outlined trajectory but returned to their initial position, thus walking a further distance with eyes closed than with eyes open. When OFF medication, PD subjects navigated a larger radius than controls with eyes closed. When ON levodopa, PD subjects walked a similar distance as controls but with even larger errors in endpoint. Surprisingly, cerebellar patients navigated the circular walking task in the eyes closed condition with even more accuracy (i.e. following the outlined circle) than control and PD subjects. We conclude that blindfolded navigation around a previously seen circle requires intact basal ganglia, but not cerebellar input.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antiparkinson Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / drug therapy
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Levodopa / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement / physiology
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Walking / physiology*


  • Antiparkinson Agents
  • Levodopa