Musical incentive program improves stride length in Parkinson’s

From Clinical Neurology News, 2 August 2013:

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – An iPod-based program using music as reward and behavioral reinforcement can lead to significant improvements in stride length and walking speed, according to data presented at the international congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders.

The AmbuloSono system, developed by researchers from the University of Calgary (Alta.), uses an accelerometer to measure stride length and distance walked, and is tied to a music program that only switches on above a certain stride length. The iPod is housed in a pouch strapped above the knee and connected wirelessly to headphones.

“It uses music as a reward, so you have to walk larger steps in order to trigger the music to play, and when your step size becomes smaller, the music stops,” said lead author Dr. Bin Hu of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary.

In a pilot study of 42 patients with Parkinson’s disease, use of the device over a 320-day trial period was associated with significant improvements in stride length (10%-30%) and walking speed (10%-20%) over long distances. In that time, patients walked more than 3,500 km and listened to more than 700 hours of music.

Researchers also noted significant improvements in other functional domains, including arm swings, facial expression, long-term fear and anxiety of using an escalator, and activity avoidance due to depression/apathy.

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