Variability of stepping during a virtual reality paradigm in Parkinson's disease patients with and without freezing of gait

Moran Gilat, James M. Shine, Samuel J. Bolitho, Elie Matar, Yvo P T Kamsma, Sharon L. Naismith, Simon J G Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Background:Freezing of gait is a common and debilitating symptom affecting many patients with advanced Parkinson's disease. Although the pathophysiology of freezing of gait is not fully understood, a number of observations regarding the pattern of gait in patients with this symptom have been made. Increased 'Stride Time Variability' has been one of the most robust of these features. In this study we sought to identify whether patients with freezing of gait demonstrated similar fluctuations in their stepping rhythm whilst performing a seated virtual reality gait task that has recently been used to demonstrate the neural correlate of the freezing phenomenon.Methods:Seventeen patients with freezing and eleven non-freezers performed the virtual reality task twice, once whilst 'On' their regular Parkinsonian medication and once in their practically defined 'Off' state.Results:All patients displayed greater step time variability during their 'Off' state assessment compared to when medicated. Additionally, in the 'Off' state, patients with freezing of gait had greater step time variability compared to non-freezers. The five steps leading up to a freezing episode in the virtual reality environment showed a significant increase in step time variability although the final three steps preceding the freeze were not characterized by a progressive shortening of latency.Conclusions:The results of this study suggest that characteristic features of gait disturbance observed in patients with freezing of gait can also be demonstrated with a virtual reality paradigm. These findings suggest that virtual reality may offer the potential to further explore the freezing phenomenon in Parkinson's disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere66718
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


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