J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 74:1502-1508 doi:10.1136/jnnp.74.11.1502
  • Paper

Parkinson’s disease patients undershoot target size in handwriting and similar tasks

  1. A W A Van Gemmert1,
  2. C H Adler2,
  3. G E Stelmach1
  1. 1Motor Control Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, Arizona State University, Tempe, USA
  2. 2Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center, Mayo Clinic Scottsdale, Scottsdale, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 A W A Van Gemmert, Dept. of Kinesiology, Arizona State University, PO Box 870404, Tempe, AZ 85287-0404, USA;
  • Received 23 August 2002
  • Accepted 8 April 2003


Objectives:Previous research suggested that people with Parkinson’s disease are able to increase handwriting stroke size up to 1.5 cm without an increase of stroke duration; whereas age matched individuals in normal health are able to modulate stroke size without changes in stroke duration for sizes up to 2 cm. This study was designed to test this finding by examining whether sizes larger than 1.5 cm show different relationships with stroke duration for patients with Parkinson’s disease as compared with age matched controls.

Methods:The study included 13 subjects with Parkinson’s disease and 13 age matched controls. Participants were required to write a cursive “llllllll” pattern, or a cursive “lililili” pattern without the dots, at a comfortable speed and also as fast as possible, in five different sizes (1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 3.0, and 5.0 cm). The participants wrote with a ballpoint pen on a digitiser tablet. The target pattern was displayed at its required size on a screen, but disappeared as soon as the pen touched the surface of the digitiser tablet. Online visual monitoring of the hand was prevented by a cover over the digitiser. After each trial, the recorded movement of the tip of the pen was displayed with two lines to indicate whether the size requirement had been met. The writing conditions were presented in random order and consisted of 12 trials for each participant.

Results:The results demonstrated that stroke size and duration produced by the participants with Parkinson’s disease were independently modulated up to 1.5 cm; sizes over 1.5 cm resulted in progressive undershooting by patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). It was also shown that these participants modulated acceleration measures inefficiently as compared with controls.

Conclusions:The findings suggest that individuals with Parkinson’s disease writing at speed produce inadequate stroke sizes when these should equal or exceed 1.5 cm.


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