Background: Freezing of gait is a debilitating and common gait disturbance observed in individuals with Parkinson's disease (PD). Although the underlying mechanisms of freezing remain unclear, bilateral coordination of steps, measured as a phase coordination index, has been suggested to be related to freezing. Phase coordination index has not, however, been measured during tasks associated with freezing such as turning and backward walking. Understanding how bilateral coordination changes during tasks associated with freezing may improve our understanding of the causes of freezing.
Methods: Twelve individuals with PD who freeze (freezers), 19 individuals with PD who do not freeze (non-freezers), and 10 healthy, age-matched older adults participated. General motor disease severity and freezing severity were assessed. Phase coordination index was calculated for all subjects during forward walking, backward walking, continuous turning in small radius circles, and turning in large radius circles.
Results: Freezers and non-freezers had similar disease duration and general motor severity. Stepping coordination (measured as phase coordination index) was significantly worse in freezers compared to non-freezers and controls. Turning and backward walking, tasks related to freezing, resulted in worse coordination with respect to forward walking. Coordination was associated with severity of freezing scores such that worse coordination was correlated with more severe freezing.
Conclusions: These results provide evidence that stepping coordination is related to freezing in people with PD. Identifying variables associated with freezing may provide insights into factors underlying this symptom, and may inform rehabilitative interventions to reduce its occurrence in PD.
© 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.