Noisy Interlimb Coordination Can Be a Main Cause of Freezing of Gait in Patients with Little to No Parkinsonism

Freezing of gait in patients with Parkinson’s disease is associated with several factors, including interlimb incoordination and impaired gait cycle regulation. Gait analysis in patients with Parkinson’s disease is confounded by parkinsonian symptoms such as rigidity. To understand the mechanisms underlying freezing of gait, we compared gait patterns during straight walking between 9 patients with freezing of gait but little to no parkinsonism (freezing patients) and 11 patients with Parkinson’s disease (non-freezing patients). Wireless sensors were used to detect foot contact and toe-off events, and the step phase of each foot contact was calculated by defining one stride cycle of the other leg as 360°. Phase-resetting analysis was performed, whereby the relation between the step phase of one leg and the subsequent phase change in the following step of the other leg was quantified using regression analysis. A small slope of the regression line indicates a forceful correction (phase reset) at every step of the deviation of step phase from the equilibrium phase, usually at around 180°. The slope of this relation was smaller in freezing patients than in non-freezing patients, but the slope exhibited larger step-to-step variability. This indicates that freezing patients executed a forceful but noisy correction of the deviation of step phase, whereas non-freezing patients made a gradual correction of the deviation. Moreover, freezing patients tended to show more variable step phase and stride time than non-freezing patients. Dynamics of a model of two coupled oscillators interacting through a phase resetting mechanism were examined, and indicated that the deterioration of phase reset by noise provoked variability in step phase and stride time. That is, interlimb coordination can affect regulation of the gait cycle. These results suggest that noisy interlimb coordination, which probably caused forceful corrections of step phase deviation, can be a cause of freezing of gait.