Real-Time Feedback Training to Improve Gait and Posture in Parkinson's Disease

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Description

Progressive gait disorder in Parkinson's disease (PD) is usually exhibited as reduced step/stride length and gait speed. People with PD also exhibit stooped posture, which can contribute to reduced ste

Progressive gait disorder in Parkinson's disease (PD) is usually exhibited as reduced step/stride length and gait speed. People with PD also exhibit stooped posture, which can contribute to reduced step length and arm swing. Since gait and posture deficits in people with PD do not respond well to pharmaceutical and surgical treatments, novel rehabilitative therapies to alleviate these impairments are necessary. Many studies have confirmed that people with PD can improve their walking patterns when external cues are presented. Only a few studies have provided explicit real-time feedback on performance, but they did not report how well people with PD can follow the cues on a step-by-step basis. In a single-session study using a novel-treadmill based paradigm, our group had previously demonstrated that people with PD could follow step-length and back angle feedback and improve their gait and posture during treadmill walking. This study investigated whether a long-term (6-week, 3 sessions/week) real-time feedback training (RTFT) program can improve overground gait, upright posture, balance, and quality of life. Three subjects (mean age 70 ± 2 years) with mild to moderate PD (Hoehn and Yahr stage III or below) were enrolled and participated in the program. The RTFT sessions involved walking on a treadmill while following visual feedback of step length and posture (one at any given time) displayed on a monitor placed in front of the subject at eye-level. The target step length was set between 110-120% of the step length obtained during a baseline non-feedback walking trial and the target back angle was set at the maximum upright posture exhibited during a quiet standing task. Two subjects were found to significantly improve their posture and overground walking at post-training and these changes were retained six weeks after RTFT (follow-up) and the third subject improved his upright posture and gait rhythmicity. Furthermore, the magnitude of the improvements observed in these subjects was greater than the improvements observed in reports on other neuromotor interventions. These results provide preliminary evidence that real-time feedback training can be used as an effective rehabilitative strategy to improve gait and upright posture in people with PD.