Comparing the efficacy of metronome beeps and stepping stones to adjust gait: steps to follow!

Exp Brain Res. 2011 Mar;209(2):159-69. doi: 10.1007/s00221-010-2531-9. Epub 2011 Jan 8.


Acoustic metronomes and visual targets have been used in rehabilitation practice to improve pathological gait. In addition, they may be instrumental in evaluating and training instantaneous gait adjustments. The aim of this study was to compare the efficacy of two cue types in inducing gait adjustments, viz. acoustic temporal cues in the form of metronome beeps and visual spatial cues in the form of projected stepping stones. Twenty healthy elderly (aged 63.2 ± 3.6 years) were recruited to walk on an instrumented treadmill at preferred speed and cadence, paced by either metronome beeps or projected stepping stones. Gait adaptations were induced using two manipulations: by perturbing the sequence of cues and by imposing switches from one cueing type to the other. Responses to these manipulations were quantified in terms of step-length and step-time adjustments, the percentage correction achieved over subsequent steps, and the number of steps required to restore the relation between gait and the beeps or stepping stones. The results showed that perturbations in a sequence of stepping stones were overcome faster than those in a sequence of metronome beeps. In switching trials, switching from metronome beeps to stepping stones was achieved faster than vice versa, indicating that gait was influenced more strongly by the stepping stones than the metronome beeps. Together these results revealed that, in healthy elderly, the stepping stones induced gait adjustments more effectively than did the metronome beeps. Potential implications for the use of metronome beeps and stepping stones in gait rehabilitation practice are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cues*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Walking / physiology