Reliance on advance information and movement sequencing in huntington's disease



To identify the focus of impairment in the performance of sequential movements in Huntington's disease (HD) patients, the extent of their reliance on external advance information was examined. Twelve patients with HD and their age-matched controls performed a series of button-presses at sequential choice points along a response board. A sequential pathway was designated, and with each successive button press, advance visual information was systematically reduced to various extents in advance of each move. HD patients, like previously studied parkinsonian patients, were particularly disadvantaged with high levels of reduction in advance information, and as a consequence, both their initiation and execution of movements progressively slowed with each successive element in the response sequence. The pattern of results was not affected whether or not patients were taking neuroleptic medication, nor did performance on a variety of cognitive measures correlate with motor performance. Control subjects' performance, on the other hand, remained constant in terms of both initiation and execution with each of the three levels of reduction in advance information. We conclude that HD patients, like parkinsonian patients, who also suffer from a basal ganglia (BG) disorder, require external visual cues to sequence motor programs effectively. Our findings suggest that with HD there may be abnormalities in a central mechanism that controls switching between movement segments within an overall motor plan. The BG, which provide internal cues necessary for component sequenceing, may be disrupted, thereby impairing the ability to use such internally generated cues to guide movement.