Concurrent discrimination learning in Parkinson's disease.
ABSTRACT Studies of neuropsychological patients and experimental animals have demonstrated that the striatum plays a role in implicit habit learning. Here, we examined the performance of patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) on a concurrent discrimination task that can be learned implicitly by neurologically intact individuals. Participants viewed a pair of shapes on each trial and, under a timed deadline, guessed which one concealed a smiling face. About half the control participants exhibited minimal awareness of the cue-reward relationships as assessed by a post-test evaluation. Nevertheless, these participants were able to perform the discrimination task; there was no correlation between awareness and performance on the task. In contrast, minimally aware patients with PD showed no learning, whereas those who were more aware of the relationships performed as well as control participants on the task. There was a significant correlation between awareness and performance in patients with PD. These data support the idea that the basal ganglia play a role in implicit habit learning and underscore the importance of using tests of awareness to assess the content and process of learning in humans.