Performance of a motor task learned on levodopa deteriorates when subsequently practiced off

Mov Disord. 2014 Jan;29(1):54-60. doi: 10.1002/mds.25702. Epub 2013 Oct 16.


Studies in animals and in people with Parkinson's disease (PD) demonstrate complex effects of dopamine on learning motor tasks; its effect on retention of motor learning has received little attention. Recent animal studies demonstrate that practicing a task in the off state, when initially learned in the on state, leads to progressive deterioration in performance. We measured the acquisition and retention of 3 different motor tasks in the presence and absence of levodopa. Twenty individuals with Hoehn and Yahr Stage 1.5 to 3 PD practiced the tasks daily for two 4-day weeks, one half practicing on L-dopa the first week and off the second week. The other half practiced off l-dopa both weeks. The tasks were (1) alternate tapping of 2 keys, (2) moving the body toward 2 targets on a posturography device, and (3) mirror drawing of a star. For the tapping and body movement tests, those who practiced on the first week had a progressive decline in performance with practice during week 2, while subjects off during week 1 maintained or improved. In contrast, for the mirror task, subjects on L-dopa initially had much more difficulty completing the task compared to subjects who practiced off. Both groups improved with practice the first week and had flat performance the second week. These data suggest that performance of speed-accuracy tasks learned in the on state may progressively worsen if subsequently practiced in the off state. In addition, performance, but not learning, of some tasks may be impeded by L-dopa.

Keywords: Parkinson's disease; learning; levodopa.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antiparkinson Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antiparkinson Agents / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / drug effects*
  • Learning / physiology
  • Levodopa / pharmacology*
  • Levodopa / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills / drug effects
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Movement / drug effects
  • Movement / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology


  • Antiparkinson Agents
  • Levodopa