Voluntary and involuntary adaptation of gait in Parkinson's disease

Gait Posture. 1998 Jan 1;7(1):53-63. doi: 10.1016/s0966-6362(97)00037-4.


Voluntary and involuntary adaptation of gait in Parkinson's disease (PD) were studied in two separate experiments. In the first experiment, effects of changes in voluntary control were studied by asking PD patients and age-matched healthy subjects to adapt their walking pattern to visual cues resulting in spatial constraints, and auditory cues resulting in temporal constraints on stepping movements. In the second experiment, the adaptation to increases in speed during overground and treadmill walking was studied. Most patients were able to adapt their walking patterns in accordance with instructions. Notwithstanding consistent differences in step length, the adaptation to different conditions under study was highly similar in PD patients and healthy subjects. Only during walking with visually guided step length were the observed adaptations in PD patients less consistent. Contrary to these dissimilarities, the involuntary adaptation of timing of support and swing phases within the stride cycle was very similar between groups. In all conditions, only with changes in step length could a change in relative timing be observed. Our findings show that voluntary adaptation of gait is possible in PD and that basic involuntary coordination mechanisms are preserved. The observed disturbances in stride length regulation probably reflect an inability to perform fast movements in PD. Copyright 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.