Background: Pain is highly prevalent in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), but underlying pathophysiological mechanisms are largely unclear. Alterations in somatosensory processing might contribute to sensory abnormalities in PD.
Objective: This study investigated sensory processing in PD patients.
Methods: We used the standardized "Quantitative Sensory Testing" (QST) protocol (German Research Network on Neuropathic Pain) to investigate 13 somatosensory parameters in 19 PD patients naïve to dopaminergic medication and 19 healthy controls matched for age, gender, and handedness. We tested for differences in sensory parameters between i) drug-naïve PD patients and healthy controls, ii) patients' more and less affected body side, and iii) for an association of somatosensory parameters with disease-specific factors.
Results: We did not observe any significant group differences in somatosensory parameters between PD patients and healthy subjects. In PD patients, QST mean z-scores did not differ between the predominantly and the less affected body side, PD patients with and without PD-specific chronic pain or between different PD subtypes. Age, but not PD disease severity, was associated with a greater loss of function in thermal and mechanical detection thresholds.
Conclusions: Somatosensory processing, as assessed with the well-established QST protocol, was normal in drug-naïve PD patients. Thus, somatosensory abnormalities previously reported in medicated PD patients might rather be a result of dopaminergic medication, or may occur later in the course of the disease or with increasing age.
Keywords: Parkinson’s disease; QST; drug-naïve; quantitative sensory testing.