Gait improvement via rhythmic stimulation in Parkinson's disease is linked to rhythmic skills

Simone Dalla Bella*, Charles-Etienne Benoit, Nicolas Farrugia, Peter E. Keller, Hellmuth Obrig, Stefan Mainka, Sonja A. Kotz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Training based on rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS) can improve gait in patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease (IPD). Patients typically walk faster and exhibit greater stride length after RAS. However, this effect is highly variable among patients, with some exhibiting little or no response to the intervention. These individual differences may depend on patients' ability to synchronize their movements to a beat. To test this possibility, 14 IPD patients were submitted to RAS for four weeks, in which they walked to music with an embedded metronome. Before and after the training, patients' synchronization was assessed with auditory paced hand tapping and walking to auditory cues. Patients increased gait speed and stride length in non-cued gait after training. However, individual differences were apparent as some patients showed a positive response to RAS and others, either no response, or a negative response. A positive response to RAS was predicted by the synchronization performance in hand tapping and gait tasks. More severe gait impairment, low synchronization variability, and a prompt response to a stimulation change foster a positive response to RAS training. Thus, sensorimotor timing skills underpinning the synchronization of steps to an auditory cue may allow predicting the success of RAS in IPD.
Original languageEnglish
Article number42005
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2017


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