The effects of skill focused instructions on walking performance depend on movement constraints in Parkinson's disease

Gait Posture. 2011 Jan;33(1):119-23. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2010.10.087. Epub 2010 Nov 19.


Previous research has shown that skill focused attention may be beneficial for the performance of complicated motor tasks in individuals with Parkinson's disease (PD). The objective of this study was to assess the impact of skill focused attention instructions on gait under temporal movement constraints that may reflect common challenges experienced in daily life. Eighteen patients with PD walked a straight pathway under two different attention focus conditions (no instruction, skill focused instruction) and two different walking speeds (preferred pace, as fast as possible). In the no instruction condition, patients were not told "where" attention should be directed. In the skill focused instruction condition, patients were told to focus on the foot contacting the floor with each step. Spatial and temporal gait measures, as well as, trunk sway were used to quantify walking performance. The results showed that when walking at a preferred pace, skill focused instructions benefited gait performance (e.g., increased gait velocity, larger steps, more trunk sway). However, when walking as fast as possible, skill focused instructions had the opposite effect on gait performance (e.g., decreased gait velocity, smaller steps, and less trunk sway). This study demonstrates that skill focused instructions may contribute to the prioritization of stability under imposed temporal movement constraints. Clinicians should be aware of the processes involved in prioritization of movement components versus task goals in PD and the potential application of an attention based instructional set in altering priorities in this population.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Walking / physiology*