The effect of instruction to synchronize over step frequency while walking with auditory cues on a treadmill

Catarina Mendonça, Marta Oliveira, Liliana Fontes, Jorge Santos
Human Movement Science 2014, 33: 33-42
Walking to a pacing stimulus has proven useful in motor rehabilitation, and it has been suggested that spontaneous synchronization could be preferable to intentional synchronization. But it is still unclear if the paced walking effect can occur spontaneously, or if intentionality plays a role. The aim of this work is to analyze the effect of sound pacing on gait with and without instruction to synchronize, and with different rhythmic auditory cues, while walking on a treadmill. Firstly, the baseline step frequency while walking on a treadmill was determined for all participants, followed by experimental sessions with both music and footstep sound cues. Participants were split into two groups, with one being instructed to synchronize their gait to the auditory stimuli, and the other being simply told to walk. Individual auditory cues were generated for each participant: for each trial, cues were provided at the participant's baseline walking frequency, at 5% and 10% above baseline, and at 5% and 10% below baseline. This study's major finding was the role of intention on synchronization, given that only the instructed group synchronized their gait with the auditory cues. No differences were found between the effects of step or music stimuli on step frequency. In conclusion, without intention or cues that direct the individual's attention, spontaneous gait synchronization does not occur during treadmill walking.

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