Effects of enhanced somatosensory information on postural stability in older people and people with Parkinson’s disease

Qiu, Feng (2012) Effects of enhanced somatosensory information on postural stability in older people and people with Parkinson’s disease. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The somatosensory system plays an important role in balance control and age-related changes to this system have been implicated in falls. Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic and progressive disease of the brain, characterized by postural instability and gait disturbance. Previous research has shown that deficiencies in somatosensory feedback may contribute to the poorer postural control demonstrated by PD individuals. However, few studies have comprehensively explored differences in somatosensory function and postural control between PD participants and healthy older individuals.

The soles of the feet contain many cutaneous mechanoreceptors that provide important somatosensory information sources for postural control. Different types of insole devices have been developed to enhance this somatosensory information and improve postural stability, but these devices are often too complex and expensive to integrate into daily life. Textured insoles provide a more passive intervention that may be an inexpensive and accessible means to enhance the somatosensory input from the plantar surface of the feet. However, to date, there has been little work conducted to test the efficacy of enhanced somatosensory input induced by textured insoles in both healthy and PD populations during standing and walking.

Therefore, the aims of this thesis were to determine: 1) whether textured insole surfaces can improve postural stability by enhancing somatosensory information in younger and older adults, 2) the differences between healthy older participants and PD participants for measures of physiological function and postural stability during standing and walking, 3) how changes in somatosensory information affect postural stability in both groups during standing and walking; and 4), whether textured insoles can improve postural stability in both groups during standing and walking.

To address these aims, Study 1 recruited seven older individuals and ten healthy young controls to investigate the effects of two textured insole surfaces on postural stability while performing standing balance tests on a force plate. Participants were tested under three insole surface conditions: 1) barefoot; 2) standing on a hard textured insole surface; and 3), standing on a soft textured insole surface. Measurements derived from the centre of pressure displacement included the range of anterior-posterior and medial-lateral displacement, path length and the 90% confidence elliptical area (C90 area). Results of study 1 revealed a significant GroupSurfaceInsole interaction for the four measures. Both textured insole surfaces reduced postural sway for the older group, especially in the eyes closed condition on the foam surface. However, participants reported that the soft textured insole surface was more comfortable and, hence, the soft textured insoles were adopted for Studies 2 and 3.

For Study 2, 20 healthy older adults (controls) and 20 participants with Parkinson’s disease were recruited. Participants were evaluated using a series of physiological assessments that included touch sensitivity, vibratory perception, and pain and temperature threshold detection. Furthermore, nerve function and somatosensory evoked potentials tests were utilized to provide detailed information regarding peripheral nerve function for these participants. Standing balance and walking were assessed on different surfaces using a force plate and the 3D Vicon motion analysis system, respectively. Data derived from the force plate included the range of anterior-posterior and medial-lateral sway, while measures of stride length, stride period, cadence, double support time, stance phase, velocity and stride timing variability were reported for the walking assessment. The results of this study demonstrated that the PD group had decrements in somatosensory function compared to the healthy older control group. For electrodiagnosis, PD participants had poorer nerve function than controls, as evidenced by slower nerve conduction velocities and longer latencies in sural nerve and prolonged latency in the P37 somatosensory evoked potential. Furthermore, the PD group displayed more postural sway in both the anterior-posterior and medial-lateral directions relative to controls and these differences were increased when standing on a foam surface. With respect to the gait assessment, the PD group took shorter strides and had a reduced stride period compared with the control group. Furthermore, the PD group spent more time in the stance phase and had increased cadence and stride timing variability than the controls. Compared with walking on the firm surface, the two groups demonstrated different gait adaptations while walking on the uneven surface. Controls increased their stride length and stride period and decreased their cadence, which resulted in a consistent walking velocity on both surfaces. Conversely, while the PD patients also increased their stride period and decreased their cadence and stance period on the uneven surface, they did not increase their stride length and, hence walked slower on the uneven surface. In the PD group, there was a strong positive association between decreased somatosensory function and decreased clinical balance, as assessed by the Tinetti test. Poorer somatosensory function was also strongly positively correlated with the temporospatial gait parameters, especially shorter stride length.

Study 3 evaluated the effects of manipulating the somatosensory information from the plantar surface of the feet using textured insoles in the same populations assessed in Study 2. For this study, participants performed the standing and walking balance tests under three footwear conditions: 1) barefoot; 2) with smooth insoles; and 3), with textured insoles. Standing balance and walking were evaluated using a force plate and a Vicon motion analysis system and the data were analysed in the same way outlined for Study 2. The findings showed that the smooth and textured insoles caused different effects on postural control during both the standing and walking trials. Both insoles decreased medial-lateral sway to the same level on the firm surface. The greatest benefits were observed in the PD group while wearing the textured insole. When standing under a more challenging condition on the foam surface with eyes closed, only the textured insole decreased medial-lateral sway in the PD group. With respect to the gait trials, both insoles increased walking velocity, stride length and stride time and decreased cadence, but these changes were more pronounced for the textured insoles. The effects of the textured insoles were evident under challenging conditions in the PD group and increased walking velocity and stride length, while decreasing cadence. Textured insoles were also effective in reducing the time spent in the double support and stance phases of the gait cycle and did not increase stride timing variability, as was the case for the smooth insoles for the PD group. The results of this study suggest that textured insoles, such as those evaluated in this research, may provide a low-cost means of improving postural stability in high-risk groups, such as people with PD, which may act as an important intervention to prevent falls.

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ID Code: 52663
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Kerr, Graham & Davids, Keith
Keywords: postural sway, postural stability, standing balance, gait, ageing, Parkinson’s disease, somatosensory information, textured surfaces
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 23 Jul 2012 04:39
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2017 14:41

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