Motor function in a patient with bilateral lesions of the globus pallidus



This study describes the long-term motor deficits of a patient who, after a toxic encephalopathy, sustained extensive bilateral damage to both segments of the globus pallidus (GP) and the right substantia nigra (SN). There were no signs of lesions of the pyramidal tracts or of other motor structures. The most obvious deficits were an abnormal gait with an exaggerated knee extension and a tendency to fall slowly, especially when pushed backward. In contrast, Romberg's test on an unstable platform was normal, as were longlatency leg reflexes induced by perturbations. Inadequate anticipatory and compensatory postural responses, in particular across the hip and knee joints, and slow movements seemed responsible for the falls. Muscle tone was normal but reflex studies showed signs of abnormal facilitation and inhibition at various levels of the neuraxis. We conclude that the GP and SN lesions caused defective input to premotor cortical and brain stem target zones. Dysfunctioning of these zones leads to improper control of the descending ventromedial motor system responsible for locomotion, postural control, and reflex status. The deficits in upper extremity motor performance included delayed and slow movements, inaccurate amplitudes of ballistic reponses, a lack of predictive control, and deficits in bimanual coordination. Sensory feedback, proprioceptive more than visual, played a powerful compensating role in rapid aiming movements. Regional blood flow (studied using 15O2) was reduced in multiple frontal cortical regions, among which are the hand areas of the supplementary and premotor cortex. We hypothesize that this reflected impaired functioning of these areas, caused by defective bilateral output from GP and SN, and resulting in the motor deficits of the arm and hand.