Parkinson`s patients `perform automated tasks better`

Last Updated: Sep 04, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

Washington: Scientists claim to have
found evidence that people suffering from Parkinson`s perform
automated tasks better than people without the disease -- but
have significant difficulty switching from easy to hard tasks.

An international team, led by Queen`s University, says
that the findings are a step towards understanding the aspects
of the illness that affect the brain`s ability to function on
a cognitive level.

"We often think of Parkinson`s disease as being a
disorder of motor function. But the issue is that the same
circuit can affect more cognitive functions like planning and
decision-making," Douglas Munoz, who led the team, said.

For their research, the scientists conducted an
experiment using a sample of Parkinson`s patients and a
control group.

When asked to look at a light when it came on, people
with Parkinson`s responded with greater accuracy than people
without the disease. But when asked to change that behaviour
to look away from the light, Parkinson`s patients struggled.

Even when asked to simply prepare to change their
behaviour, people with the disease found it incredibly
difficult to adjust their plans, the research revealed.

According to team member Ian Cameron, the findings
are significant because they highlight how biased Parkinson`s
patients are towards performing an automated response. It also
suggests that medications currently prescribed to treat the
symptoms of the disease that affect motor functioning could
further upset a patient`s cognitive balance.

The findings have been published in the latest edition
of the `Neuropsychologia` journal.

PTI