Background: Walking in time with a metronome is associated with improved spatiotemporal parameters in hemiparetic gait; however, the mechanism linking auditory and motor systems is poorly understood.
Objective: Hemiparetic cadence control with metronome synchronization was examined to determine specific influences of metronome timing on treadmill walking.
Methods: A within-participant experiment examined correction processes used to maintain heel strike synchrony with the beat by applying perturbations to the timing of a metronome. Eight chronic hemiparetic participants (mean age = 70 years; standard deviation = 12) were required to synchronize heel strikes with metronome pulses set according to each individual's comfortable speed (mean 0.4 m/s). During five 100-pulse trials, a fixed-phase baseline was followed by 4 unpredictable metronome phase shifts (20% of the interpulse interval), which amounted to 10 phase shifts on each foot. Infrared cameras recorded the motion of bilateral heel markers at 120 Hz. Relative asynchrony between heel strike responses and metronome pulses was used to index compensation for metronome phase shifts.
Results: Participants demonstrated compensation for phase shifts with convergence back to pre-phase shift asynchrony. This was significantly slower when the error occurred on the nonparetic side (requiring initial correction with the paretic limb) compared with when the error occurred on the paretic side (requiring initial nonparetic correction).
Conclusions: Although phase correction of gait is slowed when the phase shift is delivered to the nonparetic side compared with the paretic side, phase correction is still present. This may underlie the utility of rhythmic auditory cueing in hemiparetic gait rehabilitation.