Impairments of movement kinematics in patients with Huntington's disease: A comparison with and without a concurrent task



This study aimed to quantify the efficiency and smoothness of voluntary movement in Huntington's disease (HD) by the use of a graphics tablet that permits analysis of movement profiles. In particular, we aimed to ascertain whether a concurrent task (digit span) would affect the kinematics of goal-directed movements. Twelve patients with HD and their matched controls performed 12 vertical zig-zag movements, with both left and right hands (with and without the concurrent task), to large or small circular targets over long or short extents. The concurrent task was associated with shorter movement times and reduced right-hand superiority. Patients with HD were overall slower, especially with long strokes, and had similar peak velocities for both small and large targets, so that controls could better accommodate differences in target size. Patients with HD spent more time decelerating, especially with small targets, whereas controls allocated more nearly equal proportions of time to the acceleration and deceleration phases of movement, especially with large targets. Short strokes were generally less force inefficient than were long strokes, especially so for either hand in either group in the absence of the concurrent task, and for the right hand in its presence. With the concurrent task, however, the left hand's behavior changed differentially for the two groups; for patients with HD, it became more force efficient with short strokes and even less efficient with long strokes, whereas for controls, it became more efficient with long strokes. Controls may be able to divert attention away from the inferior left hand, increasing its automaticity, whereas patients with HD, because of disease, may be forced to engage even further online visual control under the demands of a concurrent task. Patients with HD may perhaps become increasingly reliant on terminal visual guidance, which indicates an impairment in constructing and refining an internal representation of the movement necessary for its effective execution. Basal ganglia dysfunction may impair the ability to use internally generated cues to guide movement.