- The effect of Parkinson's disease on interference control during action selection
- Volume | Issue number
- 47 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Basal ganglia structures comprise a portion of the neural circuitry that is hypothesized to coordinate the selection and suppression of competing responses. Parkinson's disease (PD) may produce a dysfunction in these structures that alters this capacity, making it difficult for patients with PD to suppress interference arising from the automatic activation of salient or overlearned responses. Empirical observations thus far have confirmed this assumption in some studies, but not in others, due presumably to considerable inter-individual variability among PD patients. In an attempt to help resolve this controversy, we measured the performance of 50 PD patients and 25 healthy controls on an arrow version of the Eriksen flanker task in which participants were required to select a response based on the direction of a target arrow that was flanked by arrows pointing in the same (congruent) or opposite (incongruent) direction. Consistent with previous findings, reaction time (RT) increased with incongruent flankers compared to congruent or neutral flankers, and this cost of incongruence was greater among PD patients. Two novel findings are reported. First, distributional analyses, guided by dual-process models of conflict effects and the activation-suppression hypothesis, revealed that PD patients are less efficient at suppressing the activation of conflicting responses, even when matched to healthy controls on RT in a neutral condition. Second, this reduced efficiency was apparent in half of the PD patients, whereas the remaining patients were as efficient as healthy controls. These findings suggest that although poor suppression of conflicting responses is an important feature of PD, it is not evident in all medicated patients.
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