Hypokinetic movement can be greatly improved in Parkinson's disease patients by the provision of external cues to guide movement. It has recently been reported, however, that movement performance in parkinsonian patients can be similarly improved in the absence of external cues by using attentional strategies, whereby patients are instructed to consciously attend to particular aspects of the movement which would normally be controlled automatically. To study the neurophysiological basis of such improvements in performance associated with the use of attentional strategies, movement-related cortical potentials were examined in Parkinson's disease and control subjects using a reaction time paradigm. One group of subjects were explicitly instructed to concentrate on internally timed responses to anticipate the presentation of a predictably timed go signal. Other subjects were given no such instruction regarding attentional strategies. Early-stage premovement activity of movement-related potentials was significantly increased in amplitude and reaction times were significantly faster for Parkinson's disease subjects when instructed to direct their attention toward internally generating responses rather than relying on external cues. It is therefore suggested that the use of attentional strategies may allow movement to be mediated by less automatic and more conscious attentional motor control processes which may be less impaired by basal ganglia dysfunction, and thereby improve movement performance in Parkinson's disease.