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Motor timing variability increases in preclinical Huntington's disease patients as estimated onset of motor symptoms approaches



Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder diagnosed clinically with the development of choreiform movements. However, neuropsychological studies have demonstrated cognitive and psychiatric changes during the preclinical phase (pre-HD) prior to formal diagnosis. Previous studies have demonstrated the sensitivity of time reproduction tasks to basal ganglia pathology, as seen in clinical HD and Parkinson's disease. In this study, 29 pre-HD participants, ranging from 3 to 39 years from estimated onset (YEO) of HD based on genetic testing and chronological age, were administered the paced finger-tapping task using target intervals of 600 and 1200 ms. Mean inter-response interval, a measure of timing accuracy, did not systematically deviate from the target interval as a function of YEO. In contrast, timing variability increased curvilinearly as a function of YEO, but not with chronological age alone. Motor timing variability, but not accuracy, may serve as a marker to define the earliest behavioral changes in HD. The present study is among the first to examine the relationship between behavioral measures and YEO in pre-HD. (JINS, 2007, 13, 539–543.)


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Stephen M. Rao, Ph.D., Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 Watertown Plank Road, MEB 4530, Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA. E-mail:


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