Parkinsonism reduces coordination of fingers, wrist, and arm in fine motor control

Hans Leo Teulings, José L. Contreras-Vidal, George E. Stelmach, Charles H. Adler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

352 Scopus citations


This experiment investigates movement coordination in Parkinson's disease (PD) subjects. Seventeen PD patients and 12 elderly control subjects performed several handwriting-like tasks on a digitizing writing tablet resting on top of a table in front of the subject. The writing patterns, in increasing order of coordination complexity, were repetitive back-and-forth movements in various orientations, circles and loops in clockwise and counterclockwise directions, and a complex writing pattern. The patterns were analyzed in terms of jerk normalized for duration and size per stroke. In the PD subjects, back-and-forth strokes, involving coordination of fingers and wrist, showed larger normalized jerk than strokes performed using either the wrist or the fingers alone. In the PD patients, wrist flexion (plus radial deviation) showed greater normalized jerk in comparison to wrist extension (plus ulnar deviation). The elderly control subjects showed no such effects as a function of coordination complexity. For both PD and elderly control subjects, looping patterns consisting of circles with a left-to-right forearm movement, did not show a systematic increase of normalized jerk. The same handwriting patterns were then simulated using a biologically inspired neural network model of the basal ganglia thalamocortical relations for a control and a mild PD subject. The network simulation was consistent with the observed experimental results, providing additional support that a reduced capability to coordinate wrist and finger movements may be caused by suboptimal functioning of the basal ganglia in PD. The results suggest that in PD patients fine motor control problems may be caused by a reduced capability to coordinate the fingers and wrist and by reduced control of wrist flexion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-170
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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