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New Study: Walking May Improve When Coupled to Music

June 25, 2019

SUMMARY
  • In a small study of a rehabilitation technique called rhythmic auditory cueing, people with MS were able to synchronize walking to music at faster tempos than their usual walking rhythms. They also perceived reductions in physical and cognitive fatigue when walking to music.
  • The results suggest that coupling walking to rhythmic music may be a promising rehabilitation strategy for improving walking in people with MS. To follow up these results, this team also is studying how music might improve learning and balance in  MS.
  • The team (Lousin Moumdijan, Peter Feys, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Ghent, Belgium) report their findings in Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. (Published online May 13, 2019)
 
DETAILS
Background: Difficulty in walking is among the most common mobility limitations in MS, with abnormal gait pattern as its most visible cause. Research suggests that people with MS can benefit from increasing their physical activity, but gait problems and fatigue are potential impediments. Researchers at the University of Ghent (Belgium) have been working on ways to increase physical activity and overall mobility by encouraging walking. They decided to try coupling walking with sounds – such as music, or a metronome (a device that produces an audible click or other sound at a regular interval), as an approach to improve walking abilities. This technique called “auditory cueing” is being explored increasingly to improve gait in people with stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and other disorders.
 
The Study: The team enrolled 28 people with MS and mild to moderate motor impairments, and 29 controls without the disease. At first participants were asked to walk for one minute at their preferred tempo. Then they walked while listening to music and/or a metronome (at different tempos) for 3 minutes at each tempo, with a rest period of 3 minutes in between each tempo. Sensors at the wrists, ankles and across the chest were used to measure whether walking synchronized with the beat of the music/metronome. Researchers also measured how the intervention affected participants’ perceptions of physical and cognitive fatigue, and whether cognitive impairment would prevent synchronization.
 
Overall participants with MS were able to synchronize their gait to music or metronome at all tempos, including those higher than their preferred tempo. The level of synchronization was highest with the metronome for participants without cognitive impairment, and with music for participants with cognitive impairment. Participants perceived that they had less physical and cognitive fatigue when walking to music compared with the metronome.
 
The team (Lousin Moumdijan, Peter Feys, PhD, and colleagues) report their findings in Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. (Published online May 13, 2019)
 
Conclusions: This small study suggests that coupling walking to music may be a promising rehabilitation strategy for improving walking and increasing physical activity in people with MS. This team also is studying how music might improve learning and balance in 60 people with MS.
 
Read More
Read about more strategies to improve walking in MS

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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