Distinct cortical activity patterns in Parkinson's disease and essential tremor during a bimanual tapping task

Frauke Luft*, Sarvi Sharifi, Winfred Mugge, Alfred C. Schouten, Lo J. Bour, Anne Fleur van Rootselaar, Peter H. Veltink, Tjitske Heida

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
85 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Parkinson's disease (PD) and essential tremor (ET) are neurodegenerative diseases characterized by movement deficits. Especially in PD, maintaining cyclic movement can be significantly disturbed due to pathological changes in the basal ganglia and the cerebellum. Providing external cues improves timing of these movements in PD and also affects ET. The aim of this study is to determine differences in cortical activation patterns in PD and ET patients during externally and internally cued movements.

Methods: Eleven PD patients, twelve ET patients, OFF tremor suppressing medication, and nineteen age-matched healthy controls (HC) were included and asked to perform a bimanual tapping task at two predefined cue frequencies. The auditory cue, a metronome sound presented at 2 or 4 Hz, was alternately switched on and off every 30 s. Tapping at two different frequencies were used since it is expected that different brain networks are involved at different frequencies as has been shown in previous studies. Cortical activity was recorded using a 64-channel EEG cap. To establish the cortical activation pattern in each group, the task related power (TRP) was calculated for each subject. For inter-groups analysis, EEG electrodes for divided into 5 different areas.

Results: Inter-group analysis revealed significant differences in areas responsible for motor planning, organization and regulation and involved in initiation, maintenance, coordination and planning of complex sequences of movements. Within the area of the primary motor cortex the ET group showed a significantly lower TRP than the HC group. In the area responsible for combining somatosensory, auditory and visual information both patient groups had a higher TRP than the HC group.

Conclusions: Different neurological networks are involved during cued and non-cued movements in ET, PD and HC. Distinct cortical activation patterns were revealed using task related power calculations. Different activation patterns were revealed during the 2 and 4 Hz tapping task indicating different strategies to execute movements at these rates. The results suggest that a including a cued/non-cued tapping task during clinical decision making could be a valuable tool in an objective diagnostic protocol.

Original languageEnglish
Article number45
JournalJournal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2020


  • Accelerometers
  • Bimanual tapping
  • Cueing
  • EEG
  • Essential tremor
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Task related power


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