Three experiments employing a five-choice button-pressing task tested the ability of Parkinsonian patients to learn and generate sequences of movement, and to switch between alternative sequences at will. It was found that patients could learn and generate individual patterns of movement normally, even complex ones involving an incompatible stimulus-response relationship. They had difficulty, however, in maintaining a sequence if two different ones had been learnt and subjects were required to switch spontaneously from one to the other within a trial. Providing external cues at the start of each sequence to guide the ordering of movements improved the stability of patients' performance. Most errors in sequencing consisted of reverting to the alternative pattern of movement. Parkinsonian subjects thus show an impairment in motor set similar to that found previously in cognitive activity.
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