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Learning in Parkinson’s disease: eyeblink conditioning, declarative learning, and procedural learning
  1. Martin Sommer,
  2. Jordan Grafman,
  3. Kim Clark,
  4. Mark Hallett
  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  1. Dr Mark Hallett, Building 10, Room 5N226, NINDS NIH, 10 Center Drive MSC 1428, Bethesda, MD 20892–1428, USA. Telephone 001 301 496 1561; fax 001 301 402 1007; email hallett{at}


OBJECTIVE To assess the degree of learning ability in Parkinson’s disease.

METHODS Three different learning tasks: eyeblink classical conditioning with delay and trace paradigms, the California verbal learning test (CVLT), and a serial reaction time task (SRTT) were studied in patients with Parkinson’s disease and normal (control) subjects.

RESULTS In the eyeblink conditioning tasks, both patients and normal subjects showed significant learning effects without between group differences. In the CVLT, patients remembered significantly fewer words than normal subjects in both short term and long term cued recall tasks. In the SRTT, normal subjects had significantly reduced response time and error rates across blocks of repeated sequence trials, whereas patients had significantly reduced error, but not response time rates.

CONCLUSION Impairment of nigrostriatal pathways selectively affects performance in complex learning tasks that are competitive and require alertness such as the SRTT, but not in simple learning procedures such as eyeblink conditioning.

  • eyeblink classical conditioning
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • implicit and explicit memory

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