Characterising upper limb movements in Huntington's disease and the impact of restricted visual cues

Jessica Despard, Anne-Marie Ternes, Bleydy Dimech-Betancourt, Govinda Poudel, Andrew J Churchyard, Nellie Georgiou-Karistianis

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Voluntary motor deficits are a common feature in Huntington s disease (HD), characterised by movement slowing and performance inaccuracies. This deficit may be exacerbated when visual cues are restricted. Objective: To characterize the upper limb motor profile in HD with various levels of difficulty, with and without visual targets. Methods: Nine premanifest HD (pre-HD), nine early symptomatic HD (symp-HD) and nine matched controls completed a motor task incorporating Fitts law, a model of human movement enabling the quantification of movement timing, via the manipulation of task difficulty (i.e., target size, and distance between targets). The task required participants to make reciprocal movements under cued and blind conditions. Dwell times (time stationary between movements), speed, accuracy and variability of movements were compared between groups. Results: Symp-HD showed significantly prolonged and less consistent movement times, compared with controls and pre-HD. Furthermore, movement planning and online control were significantly impaired in symp-HD, compared with controls and pre-HD, evidenced by prolonged dwell times and deceleration times. Speed and accuracy were comparable across groups, suggesting that group differences observed in movement time, variability, dwell time and deceleration time were evident over and above simple performance measures. The presence of cues resulted in greater movement time variability in symp-HD, compared with pre-HD and controls, suggesting that the deficit in movement consistency manifested only in response to targeted movements. Conclusions: Collectively, these findings provide evidence of a deficiency in both motor planning, particularly in relation to movement timing and online control, which became exacerbated as a function of task difficulty during symp-HD stages. These variables may provide a more sensitive measure of motor dysfunction than speed and/or accuracy alone in symp-HD.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0133709
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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