Effects of long-term gait training using visual cues in an individual with Parkinson disease

Ben Sidaway, Jennifer Anderson, Garth Danielson, Lucas Martin, Garth Smith
Physical Therapy 2006, 86 (2): 186-94

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: In an attempt to improve the gait of people with Parkinson disease (PD), researchers have examined the effect of visual cues placed on the floor. These studies typically have used a single session of training with such cues and have not examined the long-term carryover of such training. In the present study, therefore, gait was analyzed during uncued, cued, and retention phases, each lasting 1 month.

SUBJECT: A 78-year-old woman who had been diagnosed with PD 12 years previously (Hoehn and Yahr classification of disability, stage III) volunteered for the study.

METHODS: During the initial uncued gait phase, the subject was required to walk a distance of 10 m as many times as she could in 30 minutes, 3 times per week for 4 weeks. During the 4-week cued gait phase, visual cues were placed on the floor along the 10-m walkway. The cues were initially 110% of the uncued step length and were later increased to 120%. Following this cued gait phase, the subject's gait was recorded periodically for 1 month without cues available. Step length, gait speed, and 2-dimensional lower-limb kinematics were compared within and across the 3 experimental phases. Celeration lines were calculated for the initial uncued phase and then extrapolated across the cued training and uncued retention phases. Binomial tests were used to analyze the significance of changes from the initial phase of the experiment.

RESULTS: Step length (0.53-0.56 m) and gait speed (0.77-0.82 m x s(-1)) were essentially unchanged during uncued gait training after the first day; however, during the cued gait phase, gait speed improved, from 0.87 m x s(-1) to 1.13 m x s(-1), as step length was increased with visual cues. Improvements in step length (0.68 m) and gait speed (1.08 m x s(-1)) were still evident 1 month following the removal of the cues. Analyses of angle-angle diagrams and phase-plane portraits revealed that training with visual cues increased hip and knee range of motion and engendered more stable motor control of the lower limb.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: In contrast to previous studies in which the benefits of visual cueing were relatively short-lived, in this study, 1 month of gait training with visual cues was successful in establishing a lasting improvement in gait speed and step length while increasing the stability of the underlying motor control system.

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