Auditory observation of stepping actions can cue both spatial and temporal components of gait in Parkinson's disease patients

William R. Young, Matthew W.M. Rodger, Cathy M. Craig

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    57 Citations (Scopus)


    A common behavioural symptom of Parkinson׳s disease (PD) is reduced step length (SL). Whilst sensory cueing strategies can be effective in increasing SL and reducing gait variability, current cueing strategies conveying spatial or temporal information are generally confined to the use of either visual or auditory cue modalities, respectively. We describe a novel cueing strategy using ecologically-valid ‘action-related’ sounds (footsteps on gravel) that convey both spatial and temporal parameters of a specific action within a single cue.

    The current study used a real-time imitation task to examine whether PD affects the ability to re-enact changes in spatial characteristics of stepping actions, based solely on auditory information. In a second experimental session, these procedures were repeated using synthesized sounds derived from recordings of the kinetic interactions between the foot and walking surface. A third experimental session examined whether adaptations observed when participants walked to action-sounds were preserved when participants imagined either real recorded or synthesized sounds.

    Whilst healthy control participants were able to re-enact significant changes in SL in all cue conditions, these adaptations, in conjunction with reduced variability of SL were only observed in the PD group when walking to, or imagining the recorded sounds.

    The findings show that while recordings of stepping sounds convey action information to allow PD patients to re-enact and imagine spatial characteristics of gait, synthesis of sounds purely from gait kinetics is insufficient to evoke similar changes in behaviour, perhaps indicating that PD patients have a higher threshold to cue sensorimotor resonant responses.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)140–153
    Number of pages14
    Early online date25 Mar 2014
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 May 2014


    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Cueing
    • Auditory perception
    • Gait
    • Action perception


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