Impaired Decision-making May Contribute to Motor Symptoms in Parkinson’s Disease

According to a study out of the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) and published in the journal Current Biology, people with Parkinson’s disease have a form of impaired decision-making that may be a major contributor to the movement problems that characterize the disease. This illustrates that the neurological factors underlying Parkinson’s may be more complex than previously thought.

Interestingly, the researchers found that, when compared to healthy individuals, people with early-stage Parkinson’s have difficulty with perceptual decision-making only when the sensory information before them is weak enough that they must draw on prior experiences. On the other hand, when the sensory information is strong enough, both the Parkinson’s and healthy groups are equally capable of making decisions.

This could help explain why individuals with Parkinson’s have difficulty initiating walking, in what is called paradoxical movement. These people have a shuffling gait and a stooped posture. However, when they have sensory information to aid them, such as horizontal lines on the floor for them to step over, their walking and gait are significantly improved.

“This tells us that the problem for people with Parkinson’s disease is not walking per se, but rather in generating the walking pattern without the assistance of sensory information,” said one researcher. “The patients with Parkinson’s disease in our study were impaired only when they had to rely on memory information to guide their actions. We believe this fundamental problem of decision-making in the absence of sufficient sensory information may be what is underlying some of the movement disorder symptoms.”

She continued to say, “Parkinson’s disease has long been seen as purely a motor problem, limited mostly to a section of the brain called the basal ganglia and a neurotransmitter called dopamine that is not produced at sufficient levels.” This study reveals that more may be involved.

raziRazi Berry, Founder and Publisher of Naturopathic Doctor News & Review ( and NaturalPath (, has spent the last decade as a natural medicine advocate and marketing whiz. She has galvanized and supported the naturopathic community, bringing a higher quality of healthcare to millions of North Americans through her publications. A self-proclaimed health-food junkie and mother of two; she loves all things nature, is obsessed with organic gardening, growing fruit trees (not easy in Phoenix), laughing until she snorts, and homeschooling. She is a little bit crunchy and yes, that is her real name.

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