Table of Contents
Journal of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Volume 2013, Article ID 787861, 8 pages
Research Article

Obstacle Avoidance amongst Parkinson Disease Patients Is Challenged in a Threatening Context

1Engineering and Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB, Canada T1K 3M4
2Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB, Canada T1K 3M4
3Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 1N4
4Departments of Medicine (Neurology) and Medical Genetics, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2R3

Received 31 October 2012; Revised 1 March 2013; Accepted 3 April 2013

Academic Editor: Gianni Pezzoli

Copyright © 2013 Jon B. Doan et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We examined whether people with Parkinson disease (PD) have difficulty negotiating a gait obstruction in threatening (gait path and obstacle raised above floor) and nonthreatening (gait path and obstacle at floor level) contexts. Ten PD patients were tested in both Meds OFF and Meds ON states, along with 10 age-matched controls. Participants completed 18 gait trials, walking 4.7 m at a self-selected speed while attempting to cross an obstacle 0.15 m in height placed near the centre point of the walkway. Kinematic and kinetic parameters were measured, and obstacle contact errors were tallied. Results indicated that PD patients made more obstacle contacts than control participants in the threatening context. Successful crossings by PD patients in the threatening condition also exhibited kinematic differences, with Meds OFF PD patients making shorter crossing steps, with decreased initiation and crossing velocities. The findings from this study lend support to the theory that PD patients rely on directed attention to initiate and control movement, while providing indication that the motor improvements provided by current PD pharmacotherapy may be limited by contextual interference. These movement patterns may be placing PD patients at risk of obstacle contact and falling.