Visual Inspection Time in Parkinson's Disease: Deficits in Early Stages of Cognitive Processing
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Inspection time (IT) is a simple information processing paradigm dependent on a participant's ability to identify physical properties of a stimulus presented for a specified time interval. In contrast with reaction time (RT) studies, the dependent variable of interest in IT is not related to the motoric speed with which the individual is able to respond, but rather the minimum presentation time necessary for participants to reliably identify physical properties of the stimulus. It is well documented that individuals with Parkinson's disease (PD) experience significant impairment on tests of simple RT, but it is unclear whether such deficits can be interpreted as 'pure' slowness of information processing, or a delay in the selection and output of a motor response. In the first experiment described here, a sample of 'optimally medicated' PD patients was compared with an age-matched control group, on an IT task. Results of this experiment suggested that individuals with PD required significantly longer stimulus presentation times than healthy participants. The second experiment compared a sample of PD patients (tested both "ON" and "OFF" their typical dopaminergic medications), with an age-matched control group, on the same test of IT. Results again indicated a significant IT deficit in participants with PD, and suggested that these deficits do not significantly resolve with levodopa treatment. Overall, the results of these two experiments suggest that information processing deficits associated with PD are distinct from motor impairment. These findings are further discussed in terms of existing neurochemical models of information processing ability.