Haptic perception of object curvature in Parkinson's disease

Jürgen Konczak, Kuan Yi Li, Paul J. Tuite, Howard Poizner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background: The haptic perception of the curvature of an object is essential for adequate object manipulation and critical for our guidance of actions. This study investigated how the ability to perceve the curvature of an object is altered by Parkinson's disease (PD). Methodology/Principal Findings: Eight healthy subjects and 11 patients with mild to moderate PD had to judge, without vision, the curvature of a virtual "box" created by a robotic manipulandum. Their hands were either moved passively along a defined curved path or they actively explored the curved curvature of a virtual wall. The curvature was either concave or convex (bulging to the left or right) and was judged in two locations of the hand workspace-a left workspace location, where the curved hand path was associated with curved shoulder and elbow joint paths, and a right workspace location in which these joint paths were nearly linear. After exploring the curvature of the virtual object, subjects had to judge whether the curvature was concave or convex. Based on these data, thresholds for curvature sensitivity were established. The main findings of the study are: First, 9 out 11 PD patients (82%) showed elevated thresholds for detecting convex curvatures in at least one test condition. The respective median threshold for the PD group was increased by 343% when compared to the control group. Second, when distal hand paths became less associated with proximal joint paths (right workspace), haptic acuity was reduced substantially in both groups. Third, sensitivity to hand trajectory curvature was not improved during active explotation in either group. Conclusion/Significance: Our data demonstrate that PD is associated with a decreased acuity of the haptic sence, which may occur already at an early stage of the disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2625
JournalPLoS One
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 9 2008


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