How to Sync to the Beat of a Persistent Fractal Metronome without Falling Off the Treadmill?

Melvyn Roerdink, Andreas Daffertshofer, Vivien Marmelat, Peter J Beek
PloS One 2015, 10 (7): e0134148
In rehabilitation, rhythmic acoustic cues are often used to improve gait. However, stride-time fluctuations become anti-persistent with such pacing, thereby deviating from the characteristic persistent long-range correlations in stride times of self-paced walking healthy adults. Recent studies therefore experimented with metronomes with persistence in interbeat intervals and successfully evoked persistent stride-time fluctuations. The objective of this study was to examine how participants couple their gait to a persistent metronome, evoking persistently longer or shorter stride times over multiple consecutive strides, without wandering off the treadmill. Twelve healthy participants walked on a treadmill in self-paced, isochronously paced and non-isochronously paced conditions, the latter with anti-persistent, uncorrelated and persistent correlations in interbeat intervals. Stride-to-stride fluctuations of stride times, stride lengths and stride speeds were assessed with detrended fluctuation analysis, in conjunction with an examination of the coupling between stride times and stride lengths. Stride-speed fluctuations were anti-persistent for all conditions. Stride-time and stride-length fluctuations were persistent for self-paced walking and anti-persistent for isochronous pacing. Both stride times and stride lengths changed from anti-persistence to persistence over the four non-isochronous metronome conditions, accompanied by an increasingly stronger coupling between these gait parameters, with peak values for the persistent metronomes. These results revealed that participants were able to follow the beat of a persistent metronome without falling off the treadmill by strongly coupling stride-length fluctuations to the stride-time fluctuations elicited by persistent metronomes, so as to prevent large positional displacements along the treadmill. For self-paced walking, in contrast, this coupling was very weak. In combination, these results challenge the premise that persistent metronomes in gait rehabilitation would evoke stride-to-stride dynamics reminiscent of self-paced walking healthy adults. Future studies are recommended to include an analysis of the interrelation between stride times and stride lengths in addition to the correlational structure of either one in isolation.

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