We used gratings of alternating ridges and grooves in a quantitative psychophysical investigation of tactile perception in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) and age-matched normal controls. The groove width required for threshold discrimination of grating orientation was 25% higher in the control subjects compared to younger individuals studied previously (p = 0.004), indicating a small but significant decline in tactile spatial acuity with age. Relative to age-matched controls, patients with PD showed a twofold increase in the tactile spatial threshold (p = 3.07 x 10-8, with somewhat greater impairment on the side more affected clinically (p = 0.03). Testing with the forearm prone, as compared to supine, produced a small improvement in the acuity of patients (p = 0.01) but not controls (p = 0.26). PD patients were also impaired in tactually discriminating grating roughness: their difference limens were over three times higher than those of controls (p = 5.74 x 10-5) for gratings differing in groove width, and over twice as high (P = 0.0003) for gratings differing in ridge width. We conclude that PD significantly impairs performance on these tactile tasks.