Gait impairment is a core feature of Parkinson's disease (PD) which has been linked to cognitive and visual deficits, but interactions between these features are poorly understood. Monitoring saccades allows investigation of real-time cognitive and visual processes and their impact on gait when walking. This study explored: (i) saccade frequency when walking under different attentional manipulations of turning and dual-task; and (ii) direct and indirect relationships between saccades, gait impairment, vision and attention. Saccade frequency (number of fast eye movements per-second) was measured during gait in 60 PD and 40 age-matched control participants using a mobile eye-tracker. Saccade frequency was significantly reduced in PD compared to controls during all conditions. However, saccade frequency increased with a turn and decreased under dual-task for both groups. Poorer attention directly related to saccade frequency, visual function and gait impairment in PD, but not controls. Saccade frequency did not directly relate to gait in PD, but did in controls. Instead, saccade frequency and visual function deficit indirectly impacted gait impairment in PD, which was underpinned by their relationship with attention. In conclusion, our results suggest a vital role for attention with direct and indirect influences on gait impairment in PD. Attention directly impacted saccade frequency, visual function and gait impairment in PD, with connotations for falls. It also underpinned indirect impact of visual and saccadic impairment on gait. Attention therefore represents a key therapeutic target that should be considered in future research.
- Parkinson's disease
ASJC Scopus subject areas