Visuospatial working memory in Parkinson's disease.
Visuospatial impairment is frequently reported in Parkinson's disease but the psychological mechanisms which subserve the impaired abilities and the way in which breakdown of the mechanisms leads to performance deficits have not been precisely delineated. This paper reports experimental investigations designed to test the hypothesis that the locus of the impairment is the visuospatial subsystem of working memory. Subjects were a group of sixteen patients with Parkinson's disease of mild to moderate severity and a matched control group. They performed complex visuospatial and verbal memory tasks. The Parkinsonian group were significantly slower than the control group when performing the visuospatial task. They were not significantly slower and made no more errors than the control group on the verbal task. The findings are compatible with the hypothesis that the visuospatial subsystem of working memory is impaired in Parkinson's disease. It is demonstrated that the impairment is not the result of a reduction in the capacity of this subsystem but is due to difficulty in utilising information stored in the subsystem to perform complex visuospatial tasks.