A common optimization principle for motor execution in healthy subjects and parkinsonian patients.
Recent research on Parkinson's disease (PD) has emphasized that parkinsonian movement, although bradykinetic, shares many attributes with healthy behavior. This observation led to the suggestion that bradykinesia in PD could be due to a reduction in motor motivation. This hypothesis can be tested in the framework of optimal control theory, which accounts for many characteristics of healthy human movement while providing a link between the motor behavior and a cost/benefit trade-off. This approach offers the opportunity to interpret movement deficits of PD patients in the light of a computational theory of normal motor control. We studied 14 PD patients with bilateral subthalamic nucleus (STN) stimulation and 16 age-matched healthy controls, and tested whether reaching movements were governed by similar rules in these two groups. A single optimal control model accounted for the reaching movements of healthy subjects and PD patients, whatever the condition of STN stimulation (on or off). The choice of movement speed was explained in all subjects by the existence of a preset dynamic range for the motor signals. This range was idiosyncratic and applied to all movements regardless of their amplitude. In PD patients this dynamic range was abnormally narrow and correlated with bradykinesia. STN stimulation reduced bradykinesia and widened this range in all patients, but did not restore it to a normal value. These results, consistent with the motor motivation hypothesis, suggest that constrained optimization of motor effort is the main determinant of movement planning (choice of speed) and movement production, in both healthy and PD subjects.