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Neurology. 1997 Jul;49(1):168-77.

Tactile spatial acuity and roughness discrimination: impairments due to aging and Parkinson's disease.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


We used gratings of alternating ridges and grooves in a quantitative psychophysical investigation of tactile perception in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) and age-matched normal controls. The groove width required for threshold discrimination of grating orientation was 25% higher in the control subjects compared to younger individuals studied previously (p = 0.004), indicating a small but significant decline in tactile spatial acuity with age. Relative to age-matched controls, patients with PD showed a twofold increase in the tactile spatial threshold (p = 3.07 x 10(-8), with somewhat greater impairment on the side more affected clinically (p = 0.03). Testing with the forearm prone, as compared to supine, produced a small improvement in the acuity of patients (p = 0.01) but not controls (p = 0.26). PD patients were also impaired in tactually discriminating grating roughness: their difference limens were over three times higher than those of controls (p = 5.74 x 10(-5)) for gratings differing in groove width, and over twice as high (p = 0.0003) for gratings differing in ridge width. We conclude that PD significantly impairs performance on these tactile tasks.

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