ABSTRACT: Freezing of gait (FOG) is a commonly observed phenomenon in Parkinson's disease, but its causes and mechanisms are not fully understood. This paper presents the development of a virtual reality (VR)-based body-weight supported treadmill interface (BWSTI) designed and applied to investigate FOG. The BWSTI provides a safe and controlled walking platform which allows investigators to assess gait impairments under various conditions that simulate real life. In order to be able to evoke FOG, our BWSTI employed a novel speed adaptation controller, which allows patients to drive the treadmill speed. Our interface responsively follows the subject's intention of changing walking speed by the combined use of feedback and feedforward controllers. To provide realistic visual stimuli, a three dimensional VR system is interfaced with the speed adaptation controller and synchronously displays realistic visual cues. The VR-based BWSTI was tested with three patients with PD who are known to have FOG. Visual stimuli that might cause FOG were shown to them while the speed adaptation controller adjusted treadmill speed to follow the subjects' intention. Two of the three subjects showed FOG during the treadmill walking.
IEEE ... International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics : [proceedings]. 06/2011; 2011:5975463.