The synchronisation of lower limb responses with a variable metronome: the effect of biomechanical constraints on timing

Gait Posture. 2006 Apr;23(3):307-14. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2005.04.001.


Stepping in time with a metronome has been reported to improve pathological gait. Although there have been many studies of finger tapping synchronisation tasks with a metronome, the specific details of the influences of metronome timing on walking remain unknown. As a preliminary to studying pathological control of gait timing, we designed an experiment with four synchronisation tasks, unilateral heel tapping in sitting, bilateral heel tapping in sitting, bilateral heel tapping in standing, and stepping on the spot, in order to examine the influence of biomechanical constraints on metronome timing. These four conditions allow study of the effects of bilateral co-ordination and maintenance of balance on timing. Eight neurologically normal participants made heel tapping and stepping responses in synchrony with a metronome producing 500 ms interpulse intervals. In each trial comprising 40 intervals, one interval, selected at random between intervals 15 and 30, was lengthened or shortened, which resulted in a shift in phase of all subsequent metronome pulses. Performance measures were the speed of compensation for the phase shift, in terms of the temporal difference between the response and the metronome pulse, i.e. asynchrony, and the standard deviation of the asynchronies and interresponse intervals of steady state synchronisation. The speed of compensation decreased with increase in the demands of maintaining balance. The standard deviation varied across conditions but was not related to the compensation speed. The implications of these findings for metronome assisted gait are discussed in terms of a first-order linear correction account of synchronisation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / physiology*
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*