Standardized handwriting to assess bradykinesia, micrographia and tremor in Parkinson's disease

PLoS One. 2014 May 22;9(5):e97614. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0097614. eCollection 2014.


Objective: To assess whether standardized handwriting can provide quantitative measures to distinguish patients diagnosed with Parkinson's disease from age- and gender-matched healthy control participants.

Design: Exploratory study. Pen tip trajectories were recorded during circle, spiral and line drawing and repeated character 'elelelel' and sentence writing, performed by Parkinson patients and healthy control participants. Parkinson patients were tested after overnight withdrawal of anti-Parkinsonian medication.

Setting: University Medical Center Groningen, tertiary care, the Netherlands.

Participants: Patients with Parkinson's disease (n = 10; mean age 69.0 years; 6 male) and healthy controls (n = 10; mean age 68.1 years; 6 male).

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: Movement time and velocity to detect bradykinesia and the size of writing to detect micrographia. A rest recording to investigate the presence of a rest-tremor, by frequency analysis.

Results: Mean disease duration in the Parkinson group was 4.4 years and the patients were in modified Hoehn-Yahr stages 1-2.5. In general, Parkinson patients were slower than healthy control participants. Median time per repetition, median velocity and median acceleration of the sentence task and median velocity of the elel task differed significantly between Parkinson patients and healthy control participants (all p<0.0014). Parkinson patients also wrote smaller than healthy control participants and the width of the 'e' in the elel task was significantly smaller in Parkinson patients compared to healthy control participants (p<0.0014). A rest-tremor was detected in the three patients who were clinically assessed as having rest-tremor.

Conclusions: This study shows that standardized handwriting can provide objective measures for bradykinesia, tremor and micrographia to distinguish Parkinson patients from healthy control participants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Handwriting*
  • Humans
  • Hypokinesia / diagnosis*
  • Hypokinesia / etiology
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Netherlands
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parkinson Disease / complications
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology*
  • Tremor / diagnosis*
  • Tremor / etiology

Grants and funding

This study is part of the DiPAR project for which funding was received from the EC in the FP7-SME-201001 programme (grant agreement 262291). VTT and UMCG collaborated as subcontracted RTD performers. Manus Neurodynamica Ltd, Newcastle, United Kingdom provided support in the form of salaries for author RZ, but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.