Saccade frequency response to visual cues during gait in Parkinson's disease: the selective role of attention

Samuel Stuart, Sue Lord, Brook Galna, Lynn Rochester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
53 Downloads (Pure)


Gait impairment is a core feature of Parkinson's disease (PD) with implications for falls risk. Visual cues improve gait in PD, but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. Evidence suggests that attention and vision play an important role; however, the relative contribution from each is unclear. Measurement of visual exploration (specifically saccade frequency) during gait allows for real-time measurement of attention and vision. Understanding how visual cues influence visual exploration may allow inferences of the underlying mechanisms to response which could help to develop effective therapeutics. This study aimed to examine saccade frequency during gait in response to a visual cue in PD and older adults and investigate the roles of attention and vision in visual cue response in PD. A mobile eye-tracker measured saccade frequency during gait in 55 people with PD and 32 age-matched controls. Participants walked in a straight line with and without a visual cue (50 cm transverse lines) presented under single task and dual-task (concurrent digit span recall). Saccade frequency was reduced when walking in PD compared to controls; however, visual cues ameliorated saccadic deficit. Visual cues significantly increased saccade frequency in both PD and controls under both single task and dual-task. Attention rather than visual function was central to saccade frequency and gait response to visual cues in PD. In conclusion, this study highlights the impact of visual cues on visual exploration when walking and the important role of attention in PD. Understanding these complex features will help inform intervention development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769-778
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number7
Early online date12 Feb 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Feb 2018


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