Perception of heaviness in Parkinson's disease



The present study investigated whether a specific aspect of proprioception, the sense of heaviness or weight is affected in PD. We determined detection thresholds for the perception of a gravito-inertial load in 10 PD patients and 11 age-matched control subjects. A gradually increasing weight was applied to the index finger by means of two slings of different width (low vs. high skin pressure). For the controls, mean detection thresholds were 31.3 g at skin high pressure and 33.0 g under low pressure. PD patients revealed significantly higher thresholds than the control group in both pressure conditions (mean high pressure,47.7 g; mean low pressure, 52.3 g; group effect, P = 0.001). Thresholds of PD patients tended to increase with disease severity as measured by the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale Motor score (r = 0.55) but did not correlate significantly with levodopa equivalent dosage. The results demonstrate that the perception of heaviness or weight is already affected in the early stages of PD. These findings underline the growing evidence that proprioceptive and possibly haptic dysfunction is a common feature of PD. © 2006 Movement Disorder Society