Freezing in Parkinson's disease: A spatiotemporal motor disorder beyond gait§


  • Funding agencies: This study was supported by a grant from the Research Council of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium (contract OT / 07 / 074) and the Flanders Fund for Scientific Research (project G0691.08).

  • Relevant conflicts of interest/financial disclosures: Nothing to report.

  • §

    Full financial disclosures and author roles may be found in the online version of this article.


Freezing of gait (FOG) is an incapacitating problem in Parkinson's disease that is difficult to manage therapeutically. We tested the hypothesis that impaired rhythm and amplitude control is a common mechanism of freezing which is also present during other rhythmic tasks. Therefore, we compared the occurrence and spatiotemporal profiles of freezing episodes during upper limb motion, lower limb motion, and FOG. Eleven freezers, 12 non-freezers, and 11 controls performed a rhythmic bilateral finger movement task. The triggering effect of movement speed, amplitude, and coordination pattern was evaluated. Regression slopes and spectral analysis addressed the spatial and temporal kinematic changes inherent to freezing episodes. The FOG Questionnaire score significantly predicted severity of upper limb freezing, present in 9 freezers, and of foot freezing, present in 8 freezers. Similar to gait, small-amplitude movements tended to trigger upper limb freezing, which was preceded by hastened movement and a strong amplitude breakdown. Upper limb freezing power spectra were broadband, including increased energy in the “freeze band” (3–8 Hz). Contrary to FOG, unilateral upper limb freezing was common and occurred mainly on the disease-dominant side. The findings emphasize that a core motor problem underlies freezing which can affect various movement effectors. This deficit may originate on the disease-dominant body side and interfere with amplitude and timing regulation during repetitive limb movements. These results may shift current thinking on the origins of freezing as being not exclusively a gait failure. © 2011 Movement Disorder Society