Background: The basal ganglia and cerebellum are brain structures involved in movement initiation, execution and termination. They are thought to be involved in the tremor generation and movement deficits in Parkinson's disease (PD) and essential tremor (ET). Especially in PD, maintaining cyclic movement, such as walking or tapping can be significantly disturbed. Providing external cues improves timing of these movements in PD but its effect on ET has not yet been studied in depth. The aim of this study is to evaluate the usefulness of a bimanual tapping task as a tool during clinical decision making.
Method: Hand movements and tremor was recorded using accelerometers and EMG (m. extensor carpi ulnaris) from PD and ET patients and healthy controls during a bimanual tapping task as a way to distinguish PD from ET. All subjects performed the tapping task at two different frequencies, 2 Hz and 4 Hz, with and without the presence of auditory cues.
Results: No significant intra-group differences were found in the patient groups. Acceleration data revealed significantly less accurate tapping and more variable tapping in PD than in ET and healthy controls. ET subjects tapped less accurate and with a greater variability than healthy controls during the 4 Hz tapping task. Most interestingly the tapping accuracy improved in PD patients when kinetic tremor was recorded with EMG during the task.
Conclusion: Providing ET and PD patients with an external cue results in different tapping performances between patient groups and healthy controls. Furthermore, the findings suggest that kinetic tremor in PD enables patients to perform the task with a greater accuracy. So far this has not been shown in other studies.
- Auditory cue
- Essential tremor
- Kinetic tremor
- Parkinson's disease
- Tapping accuracy
- Tapping variability