Immediate Effects of Lower Limb Sensory Simulation Using Smart Socks to Stabilize Gait in People with Parkinson's Disease

Matthew A Brodie, Paulo H Pelicioni, Yoshiro Okubo, Daniel Y Chan, Vincent Carroll, Barbara Toson, Davide Vigano, Maurizio Macagno, Sharlene Sternberg, Guenter Schreier, Nigel H Lovell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People with Parkinson's disease (PD) experience gait impairment that can lead to falls and poor quality of life. Here we investigate the feasibility of using smart socks to stimulate the lower limbs of people with PD to reduce excessive step time variability during walking. We hypothesised that rythmic excitation of lower limb afferents, matched to a participant's comfortable pace, would entrain deficient neuro-muscular signals resulting in improved gait. Five people with mild to moderate PD symptoms (70 ± 9 years) were tested on medication before and after a 30-minute familierization session. Paired t-tests and Cohen's d were used to assess gait changes and report effect sizes. Participant experiences were recorded through structured interviews. Lower limb stimulation resulted in an acute 15% increase in gait speed (p=0.006, d=0.62), an 11% increase in step length (p=0.04, d=0.35), a 44% reduction in step time variability (p=0.03, d=0.91), a 22% increase in perceived gait quality (p=0.04, d=1.17), a 24% reduction in mental effort to walk (p=0.02, d=0.79) and no statistical difference for cadence (p=0.16). Participants commented positively on the benefit of stimulation during training but found that stimulation could be distracting when not walking and the socks hard to put on. While the large effects for step time variability and percieved gait quality (Cohen's d > 0.8) are promising, limitations regarding sample size, potential placebo effects and translation to the home environment should be addressed by future studies.Clinical Relevance- This study demonstrates the feasibility of using smart stimulating socks to reduce excessive step time variability in people with PD. As step time variability is a risk factor for falls, the use of smart textiles to augment future rehabilitation programs warrants further investigation.

Research Field

  • Exploration of Digital Health


  • Legged locomotion
  • Training
  • Smart textiles
  • Biology
  • Interviews
  • Diseases


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