Walking to a Beat May Improve Gait of Parkinson’s Patients

Walking to a Beat May Improve Gait of Parkinson’s Patients

PITTSBURGH—Walking to a beat could be useful for patients needing rehabilitation, according to a University of Pittsburgh study. The findings, highlighted in the August issue of PLOS One, demonstrate that researchers should further investigate the potential of auditory, visual, and tactile cues in the rehabilitation of patients suffering from illnesses like Parkinson’s Disease—a brain disorder leading to shaking (tremors) and difficulty walking.Ervin Sejdic, an assistant professor of engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of EngineeringErvin Sejdic, an assistant professor of engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering

Together with a team of collaborators from abroad, Ervin Sejdic, an assistant professor of engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, studied the effects of various metronomic stimuli (a mechanically produced beat) on fifteen healthy adults, ages 18 to 30. Walkers participated in two sessions consisting of five 15-minute trials in which the participants walked with different cues.

In the first, participants walked at their preferred walking speed. Then, in subsequent trials, participants were asked to walk to a metronomic beat, produced by way of visuals, sound, or touch. Finally, participants were asked to walk with all three cues simultaneously, the pace of which was set to that of the first trial.

“We found that the auditory cue had the greatest influence on human gait, while the visual cues had no significant effect whatsoever,” said Sejdic. “This finding could be particularly helpful for patients with Parkinson’s Disease, for example, as auditory cues work very well in their rehabilitation.”

Sejdic said that with illnesses like Parkinson’s Disease, a big question is whether researchers can better understand the changes that come with this deterioration. Through their study, the Pitt team feels that visual cues could be considered as an alternative modality in rehabilitation and should be further explored in the laboratory.

“Oftentimes, a patient with Parkinson’s Disease comes in for an exam, completes a gait assessment in the laboratory, and everything is great,” said Sejdic. “But then, the person leaves and falls down. Why? Because a laboratory is a strictly controlled environment. It’s flat, has few obstacles, and there aren’t any cues (like sound) around us. When we’re walking around our neighborhoods, however, there are sidewalks, as well as streetlights and people honking car horns: you have to process all of this information together. We are trying to create that real-life space in the laboratory.”

In the future, Sejdic and his team would like to conduct similar walking trials with patients with Parkinson’s Disease, to observe whether their gait is more or less stable.

“Can we see the same trends that we observed in healthy people?” he said. “And, if we observe the same trends, then that would have direct connotations to rehabilitation processes.”

Additionally, his team plans to explore the impact of music on runners and walkers.

Funding for this project was provided, in part, by the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Toronto, and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.

Walking is a complex, rhythmic task performed by the locomotor system. However, natural gait rhythms can be influenced by metronomic auditory stimuli, a phenomenon of particular interest in neurological rehabilitation. In this paper, we examined the effects of aural, visual and tactile rhythmic cues on the temporal dynamics associated with human gait. Data were collected from fifteen healthy adults in two sessions. Each session consisted of five 15-minute trials. In the first trial of each session, participants walked at their preferred walking speed. In subsequent trials, participants were asked to walk to a metronomic beat, provided through visually, aurally, tactile or all three cues (simultaneously and in sync), the pace of which was set to the preferred walking speed of the first trial. Using the collected data, we extracted several parameters including: gait speed, mean stride interval, stride interval variability, scaling exponent and maximum Lyapunov exponent. The extracted parameters showed that rhythmic sensory cues affect the temporal dynamics of human gait. The auditory rhythmic cue had the greatest influence on the gait parameters, while the visual cue had no statistically significant effect on the scaling exponent. These results demonstrate that visual rhythmic cues could be considered as an alternative cueing modality in rehabilitation without concern of adversely altering the statistical persistence of walking.

As almost every 80s song has pointed out, music has the power to move you. Turns out that for people with Parkinson’s, who move way more than they volunteer to, a solid beat may help improve their walking gait.

Researchers at University of Pittsburgh conducted a study involving healthy participants that used audio, tactile, and visual cues to deliver a constant beat from a metronome. Their walking was analyzed using a belt worn accelerometer and a sensor in the shoes while under each separate type of cue, none at all, and all together. The results indicate that an audio beat provides a significant effect on a person’s walk, while visual cues had almost no effect at all, and tactile was somewhere in the middle. The researchers believe that the findings point to conducting further studies with Parkinson’s patients for whom a controlled, regular walking gait could be of great benefit.

Source : http://www.news.pitt.edu/humangait

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