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Jessica A. Grahn 1 Article
Comparison of Spontaneous Motor Tempo during Finger Tapping, Toe Tapping and Stepping on the Spot in People with and without Parkinson’s Disease
Dawn Rose, Daniel J. Cameron, Peter J. Lovatt, Jessica A. Grahn, Lucy E. Annett
J Mov Disord. 2020;13(1):47-56.   Published online January 31, 2020
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AbstractAbstract PDFSupplementary Material
Spontaneous motor tempo (SMT), observed in walking, tapping and clapping, tends to occur around 2 Hz. Initiating and controlling movement can be difficult for people with Parkinson’s (PWP), but studies have not identified whether PWP differ from controls in SMT. For community-based interventions, e.g. dancing, it would be helpful to know a baseline SMT to optimize the tempi of cued activities. Therefore, this study compared finger tapping (FT), toe tapping (TT) and stepping ‘on the spot’ (SS) in PWP and two groups of healthy controls [age-matched controls (AMC) and young healthy controls (YHC)], as SMT is known to change with age.
Participants (PWP; n = 30, AMC; n = 23, YHC; n = 35) were asked to tap or step on the spot at a natural pace for two trials lasting 40 seconds. The central 30 seconds were averaged for analyses using mean inter-onset intervals (IOI) and coefficient of variation (CoV) to measure rate and variability respectively.
PWP had faster SMT than both control groups, depending on the movement modality: FT, F(2, 87) = 7.92, p < 0.01 (PWP faster than YHC); TT, F(2, 87) = 4.89, p = 0.01 (PWP faster than AMC); and SS, F(2, 77) = 3.26, p = 0.04 (PWP faster than AMC). PWP had higher CoV (more variable tapping) than AMC in FT only, F(2, 87) = 4.10, p = 0.02.
This study provides the first direct comparison of SMT between PWP and two control groups for different types of movements. Results suggest SMT is generally faster in PWP than control groups, and more variable when measured with finger tapping compared to stepping on the spot.


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