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Keywords:

  • Huntington's disease;
  • gait;
  • dual tasks;
  • metronome;
  • attentional resources;
  • basal ganglia

Abstract

In Huntington's disease (HD) patients, gait is characterized by a timing disorder with marked intraindividual variability in temporal gait parameters (caused by the presence of both hyperkinetic and hypokinetic features). We sought to determine the influence of use of a metronome on gait parameters in patients simultaneously performing motor or cognitive tasks that required attentional resources. The objective is to evaluate the influence of rhythmic cues on gait interference during self-regulated walking and a dual task paradigm in HD. Fifteen HD patients and 15 paired controls were asked to walk and simultaneously perform another motor task (carrying a tray with four full glasses) or a cognitive task (counting backwards). We evaluated the effect of a metronome (set at 100% and 120% of the subject's self-determined cadence) in three different task conditions (gait alone, gait + motor task, gait + cognitive task). The use of auditory cues during free gait and dual tasks did not improve kinematic parameters in HD patients, in contrast to the situation for control subjects (improvement in gait speed and cadence but not stride length when the metronome was set at 120% in all conditions). HD patients have difficulty in synchronizing their footsteps with a metronome, mainly due to attentional deficits. © 2008 Movement Disorder Society