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Discrete and dynamic scaling of the size of continuous graphic movements of parkinsonian patients and elderly controls
  1. M G Longstaff1,
  2. P R Mahant2,
  3. M A Stacy2,
  4. A W A Van Gemmert1,
  5. B C Leis1,
  6. G E Stelmach1
  1. 1Motor Control Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA
  2. 2Muhammad Ali Parkinson Research Center, Barrow Neurological Group, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M G Longstaff, Motor Control Laboratory, Arizona State University, PO Box 870404, Tempe, AZ 85287–0404, USA;


Objectives: To systematically investigate the ability of Parkinson’s disease patients to discretely and dynamically scale the size of continuous movements and to assess the impact of movement size on outcome variability.

Methods: Ten patients with Parkinson’s disease (mean age 72 years) were compared with 12 healthy elderly controls (mean age 70 years). The subjects wrote with a stylus on a graphics tablet. In experiment 1 they drew circles, matching the size of five target circles ranging in magnitude from a radius of 0.5 cm up to 2.5 cm. In experiment 2 they drew spirals with a radius of at least 2 cm. In both experiments the drawings were initially performed as accurately as possible then as fast and accurately as possible.

Results: In both experiments the patients and controls drew at a similar speed. The within trial variability of the pen trajectory was greater for patients than controls, and increased disproportionately with the size of the movement. When the emphasis was on size rather than variability (circles), the patients’ drawing movements were the same size as controls. When the emphasis was on accuracy of pen trajectory (that is, minimum variability) rather than size (spirals), the patients’ drawing movements were smaller than controls.

Conclusions: The movements made by Parkinson’s disease patients are hypometric partly as an adaptive strategy used to reduce movement variability. This strategy is used primarily when the requirement to make accurate movements outweighs the need to make large movements.

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • size scaling
  • movement variability

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  • Competing interests: none declared.