BACKGROUND: It is known that music influences gait parameters in Parkinson's disease (PD). However, it remains unclear whether this effect is merely due to temporal aspects of music (rhythm and tempo) or other musical parameters.
OBJECTIVE: To examine the influence of pleasant and unpleasant music on spatiotemporal gait parameters in PD, while controlling for rhythmic aspects of the musical signal.
METHODS: We measured spatiotemporal gait parameters of 18 patients suffering from mild PD (50%men, mean±SD age of 64±6 years; mean disease duration of 6±5 years; mean Unified PD Rating scale [UPDRS] motor score of 15±7) who listened to eight different pieces of music. Music pieces varied in harmonic consonance/dissonance to create the experience of pleasant/unpleasant feelings. To measure gait parameters, we used an established analysis of spatiotemporal gait, which consists of a walkway containing pressure-receptive sensors (GAITRite®). Repeated measures analyses of variance were used to evaluate effects of auditory stimuli. In addition, linear regression was used to evaluate effects of valence on gait.
RESULTS: Sensory dissonance modulated spatiotemporal and spatial gait parameters, namely velocity and stride length, while temporal gait parameters (cadence, swing duration) were not affected. In contrast, valence in music as perceived by patients was not associated with gait parameters. Motor and musical abilities did not relevantly influence the modulation of gait by auditory stimuli.
CONCLUSION: Our observations suggest that dissonant music negatively affects particularly spatial gait parameters in PD by yet unknown mechanisms, but putatively through increased cognitive interference reducing attention in auditory cueing.