We studied anticipatory postural adjustments contributing to gait initiation deficits in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) to determine if these deficits could be improved by administration of levodopa or by external stimuli. Ground reaction forces and body kinematics were recorded for self-generated and cutaneous cue-triggered step initiation in normal subjects and in PD subjects when OFF and when ON. The effects of assisting anticipatory postural sway with a surface translation coupled with a cutaneous cue were also examined. Decreased force production, decreased velocity of movement, and slowed execution of the anticipatory postural adjustments for self-generated step characterized step initiation in PD subjects when OFF. These impairments were significantly less evident when the PD subjects were ON. Both PD and normal subjects increased force and velocity of movement when a cutaneous cue was used as a go signal. When subjects voluntarily initiated a step in response to the surface translation, both PD and normal subjects executed the anticipatory postural adjustments for step more rapidly, but the PD subjects, both ON and OFF, failed to increase force to execute push-off more rapidly. In conclusion, dopaminergic therapy and an external stimulus similarly improve the deficient force production for the anticipatory postural adjustments associated with step initiation in PD. The findings also suggest that force production during the postural adjustment phase of self-generated, but not externally triggered, step initiation is influenced by dopaminergic pathways.