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Sidaway, B.1; Gordon, R.1; Hopkins, M.1; Kershaw, M.1; Marean, C.1; Wilkins, N.1
1Husson College, Bangor, ME.
Purpose/Hypothesis: Previous research in neurologically uninvolved individuals has shown that learning a series of motor tasks is improved when the tasks are practiced under conditions of high contextual interference (CI) created by randomly ordering the practice trials. The purpose of this study is to examine the effect of CI on the acquisition and retention of motor skills in people with Parkinson's disease (PD). Number of Subjects: Four subjects with PD (Hoehn & Yahr scale 1–3) were recruited from local PD support groups (Mean age = 72.7 yrs). Materials/Methods: Subjects practiced three 5-key press patterns on a large-scale computer keyboard under both blocked and random schedules. In each pattern, the subjects had to depress a specific sequence of five keys with the index finger corresponding to a colored diagram presented on the computer screen. During blocked acquisition, 3 blocks of 36 trials of each pattern were performed while in random acquisition the three patterns were practiced in a random order for 108 trials. Uncued and cued retention tests were given one day and one week following acquisition. The time to complete the patterns and accuracy of pattern production during both acquisition and retention were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Results: During acquisition, the patterns were performed considerably faster under a blocked practice than under a random practice schedule. When learning was assessed by one-day and one-week retention tests, superior performance in both time and accuracy was exhibited by subjects after they had practiced under random conditions than after they had practiced under blocked conditions. Conclusions: The current findings are similar to those found in neurologically intact individuals suggesting that the contextual interference created by randomly practicing a series of motor tasks facilitated increased cognitive processing during such practice. This increased cognitive load facilitates the recall of the tasks despite the neurological deficit created by PD. Clinical Relevance: Contrary to providing patients with PD with regimented blocked motor skill practice, the present study suggests that employing a less structured and cognitively more challenging practice environment might be a useful approach in the treatment of patients with PD.
© 2006 Neurology Section, APTA
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