Quantitative assessment of finger tapping characteristics in mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease

J Neurol. 2018 Jun;265(6):1365-1375. doi: 10.1007/s00415-018-8841-8. Epub 2018 Apr 4.


Background: Fine motor impairments are common in neurodegenerative disorders, yet standardized, quantitative measurements of motor abilities are uncommonly used in neurological practice. Thus, understanding and comparing fine motor abilities across disorders have been limited.

Objectives: The current study compared differences in finger tapping, inter-tap interval, and variability in Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD), mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and healthy older adults (HOA).

Methods: Finger tapping was measured using a highly sensitive light-diode finger tapper. Total number of finger taps, inter-tap interval, and intra-individual variability (IIV) of finger tapping was measured and compared in AD (n = 131), PD (n = 63), MCI (n = 46), and HOA (n = 62), controlling for age and sex.

Results: All patient groups had fine motor impairments relative to HOA. AD and MCI groups produced fewer taps with longer inter-tap interval and higher IIV compared to HOA. The PD group, however, produced more taps with shorter inter-tap interval and higher IIV compared to HOA.

Conclusions: Disease-specific changes in fine motor function occur in the most common neurodegenerative diseases. The findings suggest that alterations in finger tapping patterns are common in AD, MCI, and PD. In addition, the present results underscore the importance of motor dysfunction even in neurodegenerative disorders without primary motor symptoms.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Finger tapping; Intra-individual variability; Mild cognitive impairment; Parkinson’s disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Fingers* / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Motor Skills* / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnosis
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Factors