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Gait Posture. 2013 Jul;38(3):373-9. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2012.12.008. Epub 2013 Jan 11.

Haptic feedback from manual contact improves balance control in people with Parkinson's disease.

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New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, Northern Boulevard, Old Westbury, NY 11568, United States.


Parkinson's disease (PD) degrades balance control. Haptic (touch and proprioception) feedback from light contact with a stationary surface inadequate to mechanically stabilize balance improves balance control in healthy people. In this study we tested whether PD impairs use of haptic cues independent of mechanical support to control balance. We measured postural sway in thirteen individuals with PD (H&Y 1-3, median=2, Q1=2, Q3=2) and thirteen age-matched controls balancing in a widened, sharpened Romberg stance in four conditions: eyes-closed, no manual contact; eyes-closed light-touch contact (<1N), eyes-closed, unrestricted contact; and eyes-open, no contact. To determine whether PD-severity affects any of these balance strategies, PD participants were tested on- and off-medication, and using the more- and less-affected body side in the stance and manual contact. Individuals with PD simultaneously maintained non-supportive fingertip contact and balance in this task without practice. PD participants swayed more than control participants (ML CP p=0.010; shoulder p<0.001), but manual contact reduced sway. Non-supportive manual contact stabilized balance more than vision (p<0.05). PD-severity factors had no significant effect (p>0.05). We conclude the effect of PD on balance is not specific to vision or haptic feedback. Nevertheless, haptic cues from manual contact, independent of mechanical support, improve balance control in individuals with PD. We discuss the implication that PD or associated dopaminergic pathways do not directly affect haptic feedback balance control mechanisms, including arm/posture coordination and proprioceptive integration.


Balance; Parkinson's disease; Postural control; Proprioception; Touch

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