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Selection of movement in normal subjects has been shown to involve the premotor, supplementary motor, anterior cingulate, posterior parietal, and dorsolateral prefrontal areas. In Parkinson's disease (PD), the primary pathological change is degeneration of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic projections, and this is associated with difficulty in initiating actions. We wished to investigate the effect of the nigral abnormality in PD on cortical activation during movement. Using C15O2 and positron emission tomography (PET), we studied regional cerebral blood flow in 6 patients with PD and 6 control subjects while they performed motor tasks. Subjects were scanned while at rest, while repeatedly moving a joystick forward, and while freely choosing which of four possible directions to move the joystick. Significant increases in regional cerebral blood flow were determined with covariance analysis. In normal subjects, compared to the rest condition, the free-choice task activated the left primary sensorimotor cortex, left premotor cortex, left putamen, right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and supplementary motor area, anterior cingulate area, and parietal association areas bilaterally. In the patients with PD, for the free-choice task, compared with the rest condition, there was significant activation in the left sensorimotor and premotor cortices but there was impaired activation of the contralateral putamen, the anterior cingulate, supplementary motor area, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Impaired activation of the medial frontal areas may account for the difficulties PD patients have in initiating movements.

Original publication




Journal article


Ann Neurol

Publication Date





151 - 161


Aged, Analysis of Variance, Cerebrovascular Circulation, Female, Frontal Lobe, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Movement, Parkinson Disease, Putamen, Task Performance and Analysis, Tomography, Emission-Computed