Walking to a beat may help some patients

Sept. 20, 2012 at 9:57 PM
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PITTSBURGH, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Walking to a beat could benefit patients needing rehabilitation, U.S. researchers say.

Ervin Sejdic, an assistant professor of engineering at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering, and colleagues studied effects of various metronomic stimuli -- a mechanically produced beat -- on 50 healthy adults ages 18-30.

The study subjects participated in two sessions consisting of five 15-minute trials in which they walked with different cues -- auditory, visual and tactile.

In the first session participants walked at their preferred walking speed. Then, in subsequent trials, participants were asked to walk to a metronomic beat, produced by way of visuals, sound or touch. Finally, participants were asked to walk with all three cues simultaneously, the pace of which was set to that of the first trial.

"We found that the auditory cue had the greatest influence on human gait, while the visual cues had no significant effect whatsoever," Sejdic said in a statement. "This finding could be particularly helpful for patients with Parkinson's disease, for example, as auditory cues work very well in their rehabilitation."

The findings were published in the journal PLOS One.

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