Journal of Neural Transmission

, Volume 115, Issue 3, pp 461-468

Error processing in patients with Parkinson’s disease: the influence of medication state

  • R. WillemssenAffiliated withLeibniz Research Centre of Working Environment and Human Factors (IfADo) Email author 
  • , T. MüllerAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, St. Josefs-Hospital, Ruhr-University of Bochum (RUB)
  • , M. SchwarzAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, Klinikum Dortmund
  • , J. HohnsbeinAffiliated withLeibniz Research Centre of Working Environment and Human Factors (IfADo)
  • , M. FalkensteinAffiliated withLeibniz Research Centre of Working Environment and Human Factors (IfADo)

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One of the hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a depletion of dopamine. Error processing, as reflected in a component of the event-related potential, the so-called error (related) negativity (Ne or ERN) is likely dependent on the midbrain dopaminergic system. In case of an unfavourable event such as an error, this system is assumed to send an error signal to the mediofrontal cortex, which elicits the Ne. Hence, the Ne should be altered in patients with PD. In fact, we earlier found a reduction of the Ne in medicated patients with PD in different tasks while another group found no such reduction in “off-medication” patients in a flanker task. In the present study, we reinvestigated this issue by measuring the Ne in a large group of treated PD patients in the “on”- and “off”-parkinsonian medication state and in matched control subjects in a flanker task. The Ne was found to be the same in the “on-medication” and “off-medication” state, while the motor score in the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale was different. In both medication states the Ne was smaller in the patients than in the controls. The results show that the Ne reduction found earlier is unaffected by short-term differences in parkinsonian medication. The question remains open whether the long-term medication could have contributed to the Ne reduction.

Keywords: Parkinson’s disease; event-related potential (ERP); error processing; error negativity