EMG remains fractionated in Parkinson's disease, despite practice-related improvements in performance

D. Flament, D. E. Vaillancourt, T. Kempf, K. Shannon, D. M. Corcos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Objective: We studied the ability of patients with Parkinson's disease to improve their performance in a motor task requiring both speed and accuracy in the execution of elbow flexion movements. Our goal was to investigate the changes in electromyographic activity associated with the changes in movement performance. Methods: Eleven patients on anti-Parkinsonian medication were tested. The patients were selected for being bradykinetic, having little or no resting tremor or dyskinesias, and being in stages II or III of the Hoehn and Yahr rating scale. Results: The untrained patients displayed multiple bursts of agonist activity, characteristic of Parkinsonian EMG recordings. All patients improved their performance by increasing peak velocity while maintaining movement accuracy within strict boundaries. With practice, the patients' performance changed in a manner similar to that which has been previously observed for performance curves in neurologically normal subjects. As movement duration decreased (i.e. peak velocity increased), we observed a slight decrease in the number of agonist bursts and an increase in the average burst duration. However, the patients continued to generate a fractionated, multi-burst agonist pattern. Conclusions: We conclude that Parkinsonian patients benefit from practice by improving their performance but remain fundamentally impaired in the generation of muscle activation patterns. This study has shown that the generation of fractionated, multiple short bursts of EMG activity that is characteristic of movements made by Parkinsonian patients is not normalized by practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2385-2396
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • EMG
  • Human
  • Motor performance
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Practice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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