Affiliations: [a] Department of Neurology, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany | [b] Institute of Psychology II, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany | [c] Neurologische Klinik Hessisch Oldendorf, Germany | [d] Department of Neurology and Clinical Neurophysiology, Medical School of Hannover, Hannover, Germany
Correspondence to: Thomas F. Münte, MD, Department of Neurology,
University of Lübeck, Ratzeburger Allee 160, 23538 Lübeck, Germany. Tel.: +49 451 500 2925; Fax: +49 451 500 5457; [email protected]
Background: The generation of random sequences is considered to tax executive functions and has been reported to be impaired in Parkinson’s disease (PD) previously.
Objective: To assess the neurophysiological markers of random number generation in PD.
Methods: Event-related potentials (ERP) were recorded in 12 PD patients and 12 age-matched normal controls (NC) while either engaging in random number generation (RNG) by pressing the number keys on a computer keyboard in a random sequence or in ordered number generation (ONG) necessitating key presses in the canonical order. Key presses were paced by an external auditory stimulus at a rate of 1 tone every 1800 ms. As a secondary task subjects had to monitor the tone-sequence for a particular target tone to which the number “0” key had to be pressed. This target tone occurred randomly and infrequently, thus creating a secondary oddball task.
Results: Behaviorally, PD patients showed an increased tendency to count in steps of one as well as a tendency towards repetition avoidance. Electrophysiologically, the amplitude of the P3 component of the ERP to the target tone of the secondary task was reduced during RNG in PD but not in NC.
Discussion: The behavioral findings indicate less random behavior in PD while the ERP findings suggest that this impairment comes about, because attentional resources are depleted in PD.
Keywords: Parkinson’s disease, random number generation, dual task, event-related potentials