Background. Mobility dysfunctions are prevalent in persons with multiple sclerosis (PwMS), thus novel rehabilitation mechanisms are needed toward functional training. The effect of auditory cueing is well-known in Parkinson's disease, yet the application of different types of auditory stimuli at different tempi has not been investigated yet. Objectives. Investigating if PwMS, compared with healthy controls (HC), can synchronize their gait to music and metronomes at different tempi during walking and the effects of the stimuli on perceived fatigue and gait. Additionally, exploring if cognitive impairment would be a factor on the results. Methods. The experimental session consisted of 2 blocks, music and metronomes. Per block, participants walked 3 minutes per tempi, with instructions to synchronize their steps to the beat. The tempi were 0%, +2%, +4% +6%, +8%, +10% of preferred walking cadence (PWC). Results. A total of 28 PwMS and 29 HC participated. On average, participants were able to synchronize at all tempi to music and metronome. Higher synchronization was obtained for metronomes compared with music. The highest synchronization for music was found between +2% and +8% of PWC yet pwMS perceived less physical and cognitive fatigue walking to music compared with metronomes. Cognitive impaired PwMS (n = 9) were not able to synchronize at tempi higher than +6%. Conclusion. Auditory-motor coupling and synchronization was feasible in HC and PwMS with motor and cognitive impairments. PwMS walked at higher tempi than their preferred walking cadence, and lower fatigue perception with music. Coupling walking to music could be a promising functional walking training strategy.
Keywords: auditory-motor coupling and synchronization; fatigue; gait; metronome; multiple sclerosis; music.