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Towards understanding neural network signatures of motor skill learning in Parkinson's disease and healthy aging.

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Published:31st Aug 2019
Author: Nackaerts E, D'Cruz N, Dijkstra BW, Gilat M, Kramer T, Nieuwboer A.
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Ref.:Br J Radiol. 2019;92(1101):20190071.
Towards understanding neural network signatures of motor skill learning in Parkinson's disease and healthy aging

In the past decade, neurorehabilitation has been shown to be an effective therapeutic supplement for patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, patients still experience severe problems with the consolidation of learned motor skills. Knowledge on the neural correlates underlying this process is thus essential to optimize rehabilitation for PD. This review investigates the existing studies on neural network connectivity changes in relation to motor learning in healthy aging and PD and critically evaluates the imaging methods used from a methodological point of view. The results indicate that despite neurodegeneration there is still potential to modify connectivity within and between motor and cognitive networks in response to motor training, although these alterations largely bypass the most affected regions in PD. However, so far training-related changes are inferred and possible relationships are not substantiated by brain–behavior correlations. Furthermore, the studies included suffer from many methodological drawbacks. This review also highlights the potential for using neural network measures as predictors for the response to rehabilitation, mainly based on work in young healthy adults. We speculate that future approaches, including graph theory and multimodal neuroimaging, may be more sensitive than brain activation patterns and model-based connectivity maps to capture the effects of motor learning. Overall, this review suggests that methodological developments in neuroimaging will eventually provide more detailed knowledge on how neural networks are modified by training, thereby paving the way for optimized neurorehabilitation for patients.


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