U scientists explore freezing of gait, a debilitating complication of Parkinson's disease.
“Freezing of gait” is defined as a temporary involuntary inability to move. “About 70 percent of people with advanced Parkinson's disease will experience freezing,” says Colum MacKinnon, Ph.D., a movement disorders researcher and an Assistant Professor of Neurology in the University of Minnesota Medical School. “If you ask them what their number-one problem with quality of life is, they'll tell you it's issues with their mobility.”
The freezing phenomenon is not well understood. Nor is it understood why certain actions or “cues”, like a tap on the shoulder or a countdown (3-2-1-go), can “unfreeze” people who have Parkinson's disease.
MacKinnon and his colleagues are investigating the most effective ways to use cues and how clinicians and caregivers should present cues to most reliably overcome freezing episodes. A subsequent series of experiments will examine the brain physiology behind freezing and why cueing works. The group's current research involves measuring movement with high-speed cameras and recording the muscle and brain activity of people with Parkinson's disease as they prepare to move and then when they actually move.