Timing of sequential movements is altered in Parkinson disease (PD). Whether timing deficits in internally generated sequential movements in PD depends also on difficulties in motor planning, rather than merely on a defective ability to materially perform the planned movement is still undefined. To unveil this issue, we adopted a modified version of an established test for motor timing, i.e. the synchronization–continuation paradigm, by introducing a motor imagery task. Motor imagery is thought to involve mainly processes of movement preparation, with reduced involvement of end-stage movement execution-related processes. Fourteen patients with PD and twelve matched healthy volunteers were asked to tap in synchrony with a metronome cue (SYNC) and then, when the tone stopped, to keep tapping, trying to maintain the same rhythm (CONT-EXE) or to imagine tapping at the same rhythm, rather than actually performing it (CONT-MI). We tested both a sub-second and a supra-second inter-stimulus interval between the cues. Performance was recorded using a sensor-engineered glove and analyzed measuring the temporal error and the interval reproduction accuracy index. PD patients were less accurate than healthy subjects in the supra-second time reproduction task when performing both continuation tasks (CONT-MI and CONT-EXE), whereas no difference was detected in the synchronization task and on all tasks involving a sub-second interval. Our findings suggest that PD patients exhibit a selective deficit in motor timing for sequential movements that are separated by a supra-second interval and that this deficit may be explained by a defect of motor planning. Further, we propose that difficulties in motor planning are of a sufficient degree of severity in PD to affect also the motor performance in the supra-second time reproduction task.
Avanzino, L., Pelosin, E., Martino, D., & Abbruzzese, G. (2013). Motor Timing Deficits in Sequential Movements in Parkinson Disease Are Related to Action Planning: A Motor Imagery Study. PLoS ONE, 8(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0075454