Rapid wrist flexion movements were studied in a group of 10 patients with Parkinson's disease both on and off their normal drug therapy, and were compared with the same movements made by a group of eight normal individuals. When normal subjects made movements through 60 degrees, the first agonist burst of EMG activity in the wrist flexor muscles was longer and larger than that seen in movements of 15 degrees. If a large opposing load of 2.2 Nm was added, this also increased the size and duration of the first agonist EMG burst. Although the movements made by the patients were slower than those of normals, the size and duration of the first agonist EMG burst changed with movement size and added load in the normal way. This shows that patients can produce large, long bursts of EMG activity, but that there is a failure to match these parameters appropriately to the size of movement required. The effect of levodopa therapy on the movements was not dramatic. Although patients produced faster wrist movements when on medication than when off, the change was relatively small compared with the change seen in their overall clinical rating. Changes in the velocity of movements at a single joint are not a good reflection of the overall clinical state of patients with Parkinson's disease.
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