Vakil E et al. A deficit in optimizing task solution but robust and well-retained speed and accuracy gains in complex skill acquisition in Parkinson׳s disease: multi-session training on the Tower of Hanoi Puzzle. Neuropsychologia. 2014 May; PMID: 24530238.

Neuropsychologia. 2014 May;57:12-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.02.005. Epub 2014 Feb 11.

A deficit in optimizing task solution but robust and well-retained speed and accuracy gains in complex skill acquisition in Parkinson׳s disease: multi-session training on the Tower of Hanoi Puzzle.

Vakil E(1), Hassin-Baer S(2), Karni A(3).

Author information:
(1)Department of Psychology and Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied), Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel. Electronic address: vakile@mail.biu.ac.il.
(2)The Parkinson׳s Disease and Movement Disorders Clinic, Department of Neurology and Sagol Neuroscience Center, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Hashomer 52621, Israel; Sackler School of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.
(3)Sagol Department of Neurobiology, Department of Human Biology & The E.J. Safra Brain Research Center for the Study of Learning Disabilities, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

INTRODUCTION: There are inconsistent results in the research literature relating to whether a procedural memory dysfunction exists as a core deficit in Parkinson׳s disease (PD). To address this issue, we examined the acquisition and long-term retention of a cognitive skill in patients with moderately severe PD. To this end, we used a computerized version of the Tower of Hanoi Puzzle.

METHODS: Sixteen patients with PD (11 males, age 60.9±10.26 years, education 13.8±3.5 years, disease duration 8.6±4.7 years, UPDRS III "On" score 16±5.3) were compared with 20 healthy individuals matched for age, gender, education and MMSE scores. The patients were assessed while taking their anti-Parkinsonian medication. All participants underwent three consecutive practice sessions, 24-48h apart, and a retention-test session six months later. A computerized version of the Tower of Hanoi Puzzle, with four disks, was used for training. Participants completed the task 18 times in each session. Number of moves (Nom) to solution, and time per move (Tpm), were used as measures of acquisition and retention of the learned skill.

RESULTS: Robust learning, a significant reduction in Nom and a concurrent decrease in Tpm, were found across all three training sessions, in both groups. Moreover, both patients and controls showed significant savings for both measures at six months post-training. However, while their Tpm was no slower than that of controls, patients with PD required more Nom (in 3rd and 4th sessions) and tended to stabilize on less-than-optimal solutions.

CONCLUSIONS: The results do not support the notion of a core deficit in gaining speed (fluency) or generating procedural memory in PD. However, PD patients settled on less-than-optimal solutions of the task, i.e., less efficient task solving process. The results are consistent with animal studies of the effects of dopamine depletion on task exploration. Thus, patients with PD may have a problem in exploring for optimal task solution rather than in skill acquisition and retention per se.

Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

PMID: 24530238  [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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