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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 3162087, 8 pages
Research Article

Learning “How to Learn”: Super Declarative Motor Learning Is Impaired in Parkinson’s Disease

1Department of Neuroscience, Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology, Genetics, Maternal and Child Health, University of Genova, Genova, Italy
2Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, Genova, Italy
3Neurology Unit, Policlinico Umberto I, Department of Neurology and Psichiatry, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy
4Academic Neurology Unit, A. Fiorini Hospital, Terracina (LT), Department of Medical-Surgical Sciences and Biotechnologies, Sapienza University of Rome, Polo Pontino, Italy
5Department of Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience, CUNY School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Lucio Marinelli

Received 30 April 2017; Accepted 9 July 2017; Published 30 July 2017

Academic Editor: Rajnish Chaturvedi

Copyright © 2017 Lucio Marinelli et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Learning new information is crucial in daily activities and occurs continuously during a subject’s lifetime. Retention of learned material is required for later recall and reuse, although learning capacity is limited and interference between consecutively learned information may occur. Learning processes are impaired in Parkinson’s disease (PD); however, little is known about the processes related to retention and interference. The aim of this study is to investigate the retention and anterograde interference using a declarative sequence learning task in drug-naive patients in the disease’s early stages. Eleven patients with PD and eleven age-matched controls learned a visuomotor sequence, SEQ1, during Day1; the following day, retention of SEQ1 was assessed and, immediately after, a new sequence of comparable complexity, SEQ2, was learned. The comparison of the learning rates of SEQ1 on Day1 and SEQ2 on Day2 assessed the anterograde interference of SEQ1 on SEQ2. We found that SEQ1 performance improved in both patients and controls on Day2. Surprisingly, controls learned SEQ2 better than SEQ1, suggesting the absence of anterograde interference and the occurrence of learning optimization, a process that we defined as “learning how to learn.” Patients with PD lacked such improvement, suggesting defective performance optimization processes.