Prism adaptation is impaired by lesions in the basal ganglia in non-human primates, suggesting that this area is involved in this form of visuomotor learning. We investigated the ability of patients with Parkinson's disease to prism adapt. Patients and controls wore prisms which deflected vision laterally by 11 degrees. After baseline testing with a localisation task that permitted no feedback about performance accuracy, prism adaptation was tested at 4 minute intervals over a 28 minute trial. All subjects erred initially, reaching too far to the left of the target, but a separate pointing task encouraged adaptation and reaching error decreased at a similar rate in Parkinsonians and controls. Immediately after the prisms were removed, all subjects reached to the right of the target. This negative after effect was present in controls but not patients when assessed 4 minutes later, suggesting that the patients could not maintain the new sensorimotor relationship imposed by the prisms after their removal. This is similar to performance on visuospatial and executive tasks in Parkinsonians, where ongoing behaviour cannot be modulated without external guidance.
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