The Significance of Experiences of Nature for People with Parkinson's Disease, with Special Focus on Freezing of Gait--The Necessity for a Biophilic Environment. A Multi-Method Single Subject Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Jun 29;12(7):7274-99. doi: 10.3390/ijerph120707274.

Abstract

Freezing of Gait (FOG) is a common condition in people with Parkinson's disease (PD). FOG entails suddenly experiencing difficulties moving or feeling that one's feet are as glued to the ground. It is triggered, e.g., when passing through doorways. Earlier studies suggest that being in natural environments affects FOG in a positive way. Five subjects were recruited to serve as five single subject cases. We used interviews, observations, questionnaires and collected gait pattern data with aid of an accelerometer. A special designed outdoor setting was used, where we investigated whether passing through hedge openings with or without built elements triggered FOG. We found that no one experienced a FOG reaction when they passed through hedge openings without built elements. However, FOG was triggered when a doorframe was inserted into a hedge opening, and/or when peripheral vision was blocked. We interpret the results such that the doorframe triggered a phobic reflex, causing a freezing reaction. Passing through hedge openings does not trigger FOG, which we interpret as a biophilic reaction. Our results, if repeated in future studies, may have significance to everyday lives of PD patients, who could get a simpler life by consciously prioritizing stays in natural surroundings.

Keywords: attention; biophilia; instincts; natural environments; perception; phobic reactions; supporting environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Environment*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Phobic Disorders / pathology*
  • Sweden