Introduction: Patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) are known to have decision-making impairments in tasks involving probabilistic information. How PD patients utilize task-relevant probabilistic advance information to plan and initiate common motor tasks like grasping has not yet been studied.
Methods: PD patients (n = 15, OFF medication) and control participants repeatedly grasped and lifted an object, the weight of which could be light, medium, or heavy. Visual cues provided explicit probabilistic information about the upcoming weight at the start of each grip-lift trial. This information allows the force of the grasping fingers to be scaled predictively so that it matches the likely weight, with a suitable rate of initial force increase. Deterministic cues announced the upcoming weight with certainty in other grip-lift trials. In a weight adjustment experiment, participants associated each probabilistic cue with a specific heaviness.
Results: The weight adjustment experiments showed that the probabilistic cues were understood correctly. However, PD patients utilized the probabilistic information significantly less than controls during the grip-lift task. Specifically, patients did not initiate their grasp more forcefully when probabilistic cues announced a high likelihood (66.7% probability) of a heavy weight, in contrast to controls. Thus, probabilistic cues that encouraged a more vigorous action had no effect in PD. Nevertheless, patients and controls scaled their forces appropriately when deterministic cues announced the forthcoming weights unambiguously.
Conclusions: PD patients do not invest a high movement effort to initiate a grip-lift unless the necessity of such a vigorous action initiation is decidedly clear.
Keywords: Decision-making; Force rate; Motor system; Parkinson's disease; Predictive force scaling; Probability.
Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.