Learning in Parkinson's disease: Eyeblink conditioning, declarative learning, and procedural learning

Martin Sommer, Jordan Grafman, Kim Clark, Mark Hallett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Objective - To assess the degree of learning ability in Parkinson's disease. Methods - Three different learning tasks: eyeblink classical conditioning with delay and trace paradigms, the California verbal learning test (CVLT), and a serial reaction time task (SRTT) were studied in patients with Parkinson's disease and normal (control) subjects. Results - In the eyeblink conditioning tasks, both patients and normal subjects showed significant learning effects without between group differences. In the CVLT, patients remembered significantly fewer words than normal subjects in both short term and long term cued recall tasks. In the SRTT, normal subjects had significantly reduced response time and error rates across blocks of repeated sequence trials, whereas patients had significantly reduced error, but not response time rates. Conclusion - Impairment of nigrostriatal pathways selectively affects performance in complex learning tasks that are competitive and require alertness such as the SRTT, but not in simple learning procedures such as eyeblink conditioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-34
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999


  • Eyeblink classical conditioning
  • Implicit and explicit memory
  • Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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