The research is a collaboration between the Dublin Neurological Institute and the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering. The cause of freezing of gait is poorly understood and this is because its unpredictability makes it difficult to study. We have developed a system which allows us to provoke freezing of gait in order to study it. By stepping in place on a balance board and moving through a virtual reality corridor we are able to examine gait and brainwaves simultaneously in order to better understand why freezing of gait occurs. To date over 40 patients have participated in this study.
We have also commenced a training programme in an effort to improve freezing of gait. The programme consists of eight 20 minute sessions of stepping in place through a maze which is also focused on cognitive training. Twenty patients have completed this programme to date. Participants have found that they have improved confidence in walking and in some patients with severe freezing of gait, a temporary reduction in freezing.
We are continuing to recruit any patients with (idiopathic) Parkinson’s who experience freezing of gait at least once per week. We are also recruiting any patients with Parkinson’s disease who do not experience freezing of gait for comparison purposes.