Research Article

Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 154, Issue 2, pp 160-175

Shoulder muscle activity in Parkinson’s disease during multijoint arm movements across a range of speeds

  • Becky G. FarleyAffiliated withDepartment of Physiology, University of ArizonaDepartment of Physiology, AHSC, University of Arizona Email author 
  • , Scott ShermanAffiliated withDepartment of Physiology, University of ArizonaDepartment of Neurology, University of Arizona
  • , Gail F. KoshlandAffiliated withDepartment of Physiology, University of Arizona

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Bradykinesia is one of the primary symptoms of Parkinson disease and leads to significant functional limitations for patients. Single joint movement studies, that have investigated the mechanism of bradykinesia, suggest that several features of muscle activity are disrupted, including modulation of burst amplitude and duration, and the number of bursts. It has been proposed that it is the blending of these different burst deficits that collectively defines bradykinesia. This study adds two new approaches to the study of bradykinesia. First, we examined the features of shoulder muscle activities during multijoint arm movement in bradykinetic and control subjects, such that previously reported single joint hypotheses could be tested for generalized arm movement. Second, we directly manipulated speed while keeping distance constant for a large range of speeds. In this manner, we could compare individual trials of muscle activity between controls and subjects with Parkinson’s disease (PD) for movements matched for both speed and movement duration. Our results showed that while a multiple burst pattern of shoulder muscles was a common strategy for all subjects (young, elderly controls and PD), subjects with PD showed several burst abnormalities, including deficits in initial agonist burst amplitude and duration at both fast and slow speeds. Subjects with PD also (1) failed to produce a one-burst pattern at fast speeds and, instead, produced a predominance of multiple burst patterns and (2) showed a relationship between the number of burst deficits and the severity of disease. These results extend the findings of single joint studies to multi-joint and similarly indicate that a combination of burst modulation abnormalities correlate with bradykinesia and disease severity.


Bradykinesia Reaching EMG Parkinson’s disease Shoulder