Impaired Perception of Biological Motion in Parkinson's Disease

Objective: We examined biological motion perception in Parkinson's disease (PD). Biological motion perception is related to one's own motor function and depends on the integrity of brain areas affected in PD, including posterior superior temporal sulcus. If deficits in biological motion perception exist, they may be specific to perceiving natural/fast walking patterns that individuals with PD can no longer perform, and may correlate with disease-related motor dysfunction. Method: Twenty-six nondemented individuals with PD and 24 control participants viewed videos of point-light walkers and scrambled versions that served as foils, and indicated whether each video depicted a human walking. Point-light walkers varied by gait type (natural, parkinsonian) and speed (0.5, 1.0, 1.5 m/s). Participants also completed control tasks (object motion, coherent motion perception), a contrast sensitivity assessment, and a walking assessment. Results: The PD group demonstrated significantly less sensitivity to biological motion than the control group (p < .001, Cohen's d = 1.22), regardless of stimulus gait type or speed, with a less substantial deficit in object motion perception (p = .02, Cohen's d = .68). There was no group difference in coherent motion perception. Although individuals with PD had slower walking speed and shorter stride length than control participants, gait parameters did not correlate with biological motion perception. Contrast sensitivity and coherent motion perception also did not correlate with biological motion perception. Conclusion: PD leads to a deficit in perceiving biological motion, which is independent of gait dysfunction and low-level vision changes, and may therefore arise from difficulty perceptually integrating form and motion cues in posterior superior temporal sulcus.