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Procedural memory in Parkinson's disease: impaired motor but not visuoperceptual learning.

  • Harrington, DL
  • Haaland, KY
  • Yeo, RA
  • Marder, E
Publication Date
Mar 01, 1990
eScholarship - University of California
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A current model proposes that memory consists of two functionally separate systems that have different neurological substrates. Declarative memory appears to be dependent on the diencephalic medial temporal lobe system whereas some speculate that the basal ganglia may be a neurological substrate for procedural memory. This study tested the role of the basal ganglia in regulating different types of procedural skills by comparing performance on a motor and a visuoperceptual skill learning task. Twenty Parkinson's (PD) patients and 20 normal control subjects performed two procedural learning tasks (rotary pursuit and mirror reading) and one declarative learning task (paired associates) over 3 days. The results showed that PD patients were not impaired on mirror reading or paired associate learning. On rotary pursuit, performance levels on day 1 were similar between groups, but the PD group showed less improvement across days than controls. However, only patients with more advanced symptoms of PD showed impaired rotary pursuit learning, and this could not be attributed directly to deficits in primary motor or general cognitive function. These findings suggest that the underlying processes/procedures for procedural learning are specific to the task, and are supported by different neuroanatomical systems.

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