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Neuroscience. 2010 Jun 2;167(4):1138-50. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.02.065. Epub 2010 Mar 4.

Multisensory determinants of orientation perception in Parkinson's disease.

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Multisensory Integration Laboratory, Centre for Vision Research, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON, Canada, M3J 1P3.


Perception of the relative orientation of the self and objects in the environment requires integration of visual and vestibular sensory information, and an internal representation of the body's orientation. Parkinson's disease (PD) patients are more visually dependent than controls, implicating the basal ganglia in using visual orientation cues. We examined the relative roles of visual and non-visual cues to orientation in PD using two different measures: the subjective visual vertical (SVV) and the perceptual upright (PU). We tested twelve PD patients (nine both on- and off-medication), and thirteen age-matched controls. Visual, vestibular and body cues were manipulated using a polarized visual room presented in various orientations while observers were upright or lying right-side-down. Relative to age-matched controls, patients with PD showed more influence of visual cues for the SVV but were more influenced by the direction of gravity for the PU. Increased SVV visual dependence corresponded with equal decreases of the contributions of body sense and gravity. Increased PU gravitational dependence corresponded mainly with a decreased contribution of body sense. Curiously however, both of these effects were significant only when patients were medicated. Increased SVV visual dependence was highest for PD patients with left-side initial motor symptoms. PD patients when on and off medication were more variable than controls when making judgments. Our results suggest that (i) PD patients are not more visually dependent in general, rather increased visual dependence is task specific and varies with initial onset side, (ii) PD patients may rely more on vestibular information for some perceptual tasks which is reflected in relying less on the internal representation of the body, and (iii) these effects are only present when PD patients are taking dopaminergic medication.

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