Abstract

Damage to the medial-temporal region is known to result in declarative (explicit) memory deficits but nondeclarative (implicit) memory is largely unaffected by such lesions. Earlier studies have shown that some forms of implicit learning depend on cerebellar circuits but remain preserved following affections of the basal ganglia circuits. It is unknown which forms of implicit learning persist in patients with cerebellar pathology but are affected after basal ganglia lesions. Therefore, we determined if a test sensitive for habit-learning (probabilistic classification task) resulted in normal values for patients with cerebellar disease but resulted in affected results in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). To this end, 23 patients with PD, 16 patients with familial or idiopathic cerebellar degeneration (CD), and 20 controls were tested for habit-learning. There was no impairment of patients with CD for the early learning period but there was abnormal learning in the PD group. For a later learning period, the patients with the PD showed improved performance. We conclude that the probabilistic learning task is an implicit, nonmotor learning task which is sensitive for basal ganglia pathology but remains unaffected in the case of cerebellar pathology. Such a test may be of special interest for the detection and possible neurobehavioral treatment of cognitive and motor deficits.

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