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Keywords:

  • bimanual coordination;
  • visual cueing

Abstract

Freezing of gait (FOG) in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a common problem of unknown origin, which possibly reflects a general motor control deficit. We investigated the relationship between the frequency of freezing episodes during gait and during a bimanual task in control and subjects with PD with and without FOG. Group differences in spatiotemporal characteristics were also examined as well as the effects of visual cueing. Twenty patients with PD in the off-phase of the medication cycle and five age-matched controls performed a repetitive drawing task in an anti-phase pattern on a digitizer tablet. The task was offered at two different speeds (comfortable and maximal) and two different amplitudes (small and large) with and without visual cueing. The results showed that freezing episodes in the upper limbs occurred in only 10.4% of patient trials and that their occurrence was correlated with FOG scores (Spearman’s rho = 0.64). Overall, few spatiotemporal differences were found between freezers, non-freezers and controls, except for an overshooting of the target amplitude in controls. Effects of visual cueing were largely similar in all groups, except for the variability of relative phase, which decreased in non-freezers and controls, and was unaffected in freezers. Despite the fact that general motor differences between subgroups were small, freezing episodes were manifest during a bimanual repetitive upper limb task and were correlated to FOG. Further study into upper limb movement breakdown is warranted to understand the parallel deficits that lead up to FOG.