This study introduces a new method for studying, quantitatively, the dynamics of finger movement using data obtained from sequences of key strikes on a computer-interfaced piano keyboard. We have called this quantitative digitography (QDG). This initial article introduces the method in a group of patients with Parkinson's disease and in a group of healthy subjects using simple, repetitive, alternating finger-tapping for 60 seconds. Patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease (IPD) were studied "ON" and "OFF" dopaminergic medication before and after pallidotomy. Customized software allowed the independent analysis of key strike velocity, duration of key strike, and frequency of tapping along with a quantitative measure of the regularity of performance. Quantitative measures of the improvement in performance after medication are presented for each parameter of movement. The technique also reveals correlates of some clinical phenomena of the temporal disturbances of repetitive motion in IPD, such as fatigue, tremor, freezing, and festination. We demonstrate that the performance of 60 seconds of alternating finger tapping on a computerized keyboard yields objective measures of motor performance that are significantly different in patients with IPD "OFF" when compared with "ON" medication and when compared with healthy subjects. This is the first time that such a method has been used in the measurement of specific kinematics of digital motion in Parkinson's disease. The equipment is inexpensive and portable and the data are rapidly and easily collected, making it suitable for the outpatient setting.
View details for PubMedID 10634240