Fast isometric elbow flexor muscle contractions of specified amplitude in six normal subjects were compared with those of 11 patients with Parkinson's disease. Despite treatment, all patients exhibited deficits in this motor task. Three patients were able to produce rapid force pulses with normal contraction times, but the variability of their force responses was increased in comparison with the highly stereotyped responses produced by normal subjects. The other eight patients had prolonged contraction times and segmentation of the force profiles. The integrated area of the first agonist EMG burst and the rate of development of force (dF/dt) were less at any target level than what was needed to produce a fast response. The area of the EMG burst, however, did increase with target amplitude, and the relative increase of dF/dt, with target amplitude, was normal. It is concluded that the motor program subserving fast muscle contraction is preserved in Parkinson's disease, but its execution is characterised by improper scaling of motor output.
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