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Learning of ambiguous and hybrid sequences in patients with Parkinson's disease

Kelly, Steve and Jahanshahi, M. and Dirnberger, G. (2004) Learning of ambiguous and hybrid sequences in patients with Parkinson's disease. Neuropsychologia, 42 (10). pp. 1350-1357. ISSN 0028-3932

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Abstract

Implicit motor learning as indexed by the serial reaction time (SRT) task has been shown to be impaired in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). This has only been conclusively demonstrated for sequences that require learning of second-order sequential information (ambiguous sequences). This study examines implicit learning of ambiguous sequences as well as sequences which contain first-order information (hybrid sequences) in a sample of 12 early to middle stage Parkinson's disease patients and matched controls. The study used dual-task methodology in order to prevent strategic/attentional learning of second-order information. The results showed that while ambiguous sequences were not learned by either group, both patient and control groups demonstrated learning of the hybrid sequence under dual-task conditions. This suggests that first-order associations may be learned by people with Parkinson's disease, even under attentionally demanding conditions. This may be interpreted as providing evidence for a non-attentional learning mechanism which is relatively intact in Parkinson's disease.