Parkinson’s disease (PD) costs nearly $300 million per annum in Australia and half of this cost results from the requirement of nursing home placement, which is commonly due to the development of falls. Falls in PD are frequently due to the phenomenon of freezing of gait (FOG) where patients suffer paroxysmal arrests in their walking and become unsteady. Current treatments for PD only afford limited benefits for FOG and the mechanisms underlying this symptom are not well understood.
Our research group has recently proposed a novel model explaining the processes that account for the clinical manifestations of FOG. We believe that these processes are not unique to gait and that FOG can be accurately modeled using other tasks, which do not involve walking per se. Our preliminary data, utilising a computer based testing paradigm has confirmed the major assertions of this proposed hypothesis and we now intend to combine this technique with the novel approach of recording FOG in patients in their home environment utilising ambulatory gait recorders.
If we can demonstrate that results on our computer based testing paradigm accurately reflect FOG behaviour recorded in patients in their home environment, we will be able to utilise this paradigm in future functional brain scanning experiments. The results of such studies could identify the pattern of brain activity underlying FOG in PD. Improving our understanding of this important clinical problem will hopefully lead to the future development of improved therapies for patients.