We examined the adaptation and generalization effect of one familiarization treadmill walking session on gait in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) with different degrees of disease severity. Eight moderate PD patients (Hoehn and Yahr stage 2-2.5), eight advanced PD patients (Hoehn and Yahr 3), and eight matched control subjects participated in this study. Subjects first walked overground on a 10-m walkway at a self-selected speed (pretreadmill). They then performed a 20-min treadmill training session, followed by three trials of overground walking (Post1, Post2, Post3). Cadence, step length, speed, and coefficient of variation of stride time (CV) were recorded. During the treadmill session the advanced PD patients significantly decreased their cadence (t = 3.9, P <or= 0.01) and increased their step length (t = 4.27, P <or= 0.01) compared with pretreadmill walking. After the treadmill, all subjects walked overground significantly faster (F = 16.51 P <or= 0.001) and with a larger step length (F = 13.03 P <or= 0.01) than pretreadmill walking. The present study shows a specific adaptation to walk over the treadmill for the advanced PD patients. Moreover, this confirms the potential therapeutic use of the treadmill for PD gait rehabilitation since a single familiarization session lead to an increase in the step length and thus to the improvement of the main gait impairment in PD.
(c) 2008 Movement Disorder Society.