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1.  The Mini-BESTest - a clinically reproducible tool for balance evaluations in mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease? 
BMC Neurology  2014;14:235.
The Mini-BESTest is a clinical balance test that has shown a high sensitivity in detecting balance impairments in elderly with Parkinson's disease (PD). However, its reproducibility between different raters and between test occasions has yet to be investigated in a clinical context. Moreover, no one has investigated the reproducibility of the Mini-BESTest's subcomponents (i.e. anticipatory postural adjustments; postural responses; sensory orientation and dynamic gait).
We aimed to investigate the inter-rater and test-retest reproducibility (reliability as well as agreement) of the Mini-BESTest, as well as its subcomponents, in elderly with mild to moderate PD, performed under conditions assimilating clinical practice.
This was an observational measurement study with a test-retest design.
Twenty-seven individuals with idiopathic PD (66 - 80 years, mean age: 73; Hoehn & Yahr: 2-3; 1-15 years since diagnosis) were included. Two test administrators, having different experiences with the Mini-BESTest, administered the test individually, in separate rooms in a hospital setting. For the test-retest assessment, all participants returned 7 days after the first test session to perform the Mini-BESTest under similar conditions. Intra-class correlation coefficients (ICC2.1), standard error of measurement (SEMagreement), and smallest real difference (SRD) were analyzed.
The Mini-BESTest showed good reliability for both inter-rater and test-retest reproducibility (ICC = 0.72 and 0.80). Regarding agreement, the measurement error (SRD) was found to be 4.1 points (accounting for 15% of the maximal total score) for inter-rater reproducibility and 3.4 points (12% of the maximal total score) for test-retest reproducibility. The investigation of the Mini-BESTest's subcomponents showed a similar pattern for both inter-rater and test-retest reproducibility, where postural responses had the largest proportional measurement error, and sensory orientation showed the highest agreement.
Our findings indicate that the Mini-BESTest is able to distinguish between individuals with mild to moderate PD; however, when used in clinical balance assessments, the large measurement error needs to be accounted for.
PMCID: PMC4272769  PMID: 25496796
Reliability; Measurement error; Psychometric; Balance; Balance evaluation systems test; Test-retest; Inter-rater; Smallest real difference
2.  Light and heavy touch reduces postural sway and modifies axial tone in Parkinson’s disease 
Light touch with a stable object reduces postural sway by increasing axial postural tone in healthy subjects. However, it is unknown whether subjects with Parkinson’s disease (PD), who have more postural sway and higher axial postural tone than healthy subjects, can benefit from haptic touch.
To investigate the effect of light and heavy touch on postural stability and hip tone in subjects with PD.
Fourteen subjects with mid-stage PD, and 14 healthy control subjects were evaluated during quiet standing with eyes closed with their arms: 1) crossed, 2) lightly touching a fixed rigid bar in front of them and 3) firmly gripping the bar. Postural sway was measured with a forceplate and axial hip tone was quantified using a unique device that measures the resistance of the hips to yaw rotation while maintaining active stance.
Subjects with PD significantly decreased their postural sway with light or heavy touch (p<0.001 vs. arms crossed), similarly as control subjects. Without touch, hip tone was larger in PD subjects. With touch, however, tone values were similar in both groups. This change in hip tone with touch was highly correlated with the initial amount of tone (PD: r=− 0.72 to −0.95 and controls: r=−0.74 to−0.85).
We showed, for the first time, that subjects with PD benefit from touch similarly to control subjects and that despite higher axial postural tone, PD subjects are able to modulate their tone with touch. Future studies should investigate the complex relationship between touch and postural tone.
PMCID: PMC4074017  PMID: 22415944
Balance; postural stability; haptic touch; postural tone; center of pressure
3.  A novel conceptual framework for balance training in Parkinson’s disease-study protocol for a randomised controlled trial 
BMC Neurology  2012;12:111.
There is increasing scientific knowledge about the interaction between physiological (musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cognitive and sensory) systems and their influence on balance and walking impairments in Parkinson’s disease. We have developed a new conceptual framework for balance training, emphasising specific components of balance control related to Parkinson’s disease symptoms by using highly challenging, progressive and varying training conditions. The primary aim of this proposed randomised controlled trial will be to investigate the short-term and long-term effects of a 10-week balance training regime in elderly with Parkinson’s disease.
Eighty participants with mild to moderate idiopathic Parkinson’s disease will be recruited and randomly allocated to an intervention group receiving balance training or a control group whose participants will continue to receive their usual care. The intervention will consist of a 10-week group training regime (1-hour training, three times per week), which will be led by two physiotherapists to ensure training progression and safety. The conceptual framework will be applied by addressing specific balance components (sensory integration, anticipatory postural adjustments, motor agility, stability limits) through varying training conditions and structured progression. Assessment will be conducted through a multi-dimensional battery of outcomes, prior to and immediately after the 10-week intervention, and at 9 and 15 months’ follow-up after entering the study. Primary outcome measures will be balance performance (assessed using the Mini Balance Evaluation Systems Test), change in gait velocity (m/s) between single and dual task walking, and fear of falling (evaluated using the Fall Efficacy Scale International).
This study has the potential to provide new insight and knowledge of the effects of specific, varied and challenging balance training on a wide health spectrum in elderly with PD. If found to be effective, this pragmatic approach with translation of theory into practice, can be implemented in existing outpatient care.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3482553  PMID: 23017069
4.  Walking in circles: navigation deficits from Parkinson's disease but not from cerebellar ataxia 
Neuroscience  2011;190:177-183.
Little is known on the role of neuronal structures for spatial navigation. Our goal was to examine how Parkinson's disease (PD) and cerebellar ataxia, as human lesion models of the basal ganglia and cerebellum, affect spatial navigation round a circular walking path, blindfolded. Twelve subjects with idiopathic PD (ON and OFF medication), 8 subjects with cerebellar ataxia and a control group of 20 age-matched healthy subjects participated. All groups performed well when walking around the circle with eyes open. In the eyes-closed condition, control subjects overshot the outlined trajectory but returned to their initial position, thus walking a further distance with eyes closed than with eyes open. When OFF medication, PD subjects navigated a larger radius than controls with eyes closed. When ON levodopa, PD subjects walked a similar distance as controls but with even larger errors in endpoint. Surprisingly, cerebellar patients navigated the circular walking task in the eyes closed condition with even more accuracy (i.e. following the outlined circle) than control and PD subjects. We conclude that blindfolded navigation around a previously seen circle requires intact basal ganglia, but not cerebellar input.
PMCID: PMC3156363  PMID: 21704129
Levodopa; Kinematics; Task Performance and Analysis; Gait; Navigation
5.  Haptic Touch Reduces Sway by Increasing Axial Tone 
Neuroscience  2010;174:216-223.
It is unclear how haptic touch with a stable surface reduces postural sway. We hypothesized that haptic input enhances postural stability due to alterations in axial postural tone. We measured the influence of heavy and light touch of the hands on a stable bar on axial postural tone and postural sway during stance in 14 healthy adults. A unique “Twister” device measured hip torque by fixing the upper body in space while oscillating the surface in yaw ±10 deg at 1deg/s. Subjects were tested while: 1) standing quietly with their arms at their sides, 2) lightly touching a rigid bar in front of them and 3) firmly gripping the bar. Horizontal and vertical sway was not restricted by the device s yaw fixation, therefore, the subjects remained in a state of active postural control during the three touch conditions. Haptic touch significantly increased hip postural tone by 44% during light touch, from 2.5 ± 0.9 to 3.6 ± 1.0 Nm (P=0.005), and by 40% during firm grip to 3.5 ± 0.8 Nm (P=0.005). Increases in hip postural tone were associated with a reduction in postural sway (r=−0.55, P =0.001). This is the first study showing that axial postural tone can be modified by remote somatosensory input and provides a potential explanation for how light touch improves postural stability. Changes in subjects perception from trunk to surface rotation when changing from no touch to haptic touch, suggests that the central nervous system changes from using a global, to a local, trunk reference frame for control of posture during touch. The increase of hip postural tone during touching and gripping can be explained as a suppression of hip muscle shortening reactions that normally assist axial rotation.
PMCID: PMC3020240  PMID: 21087656
Postural tone; postural stability; stance; center of pressure; light touch
6.  Reduced Performance in Balance, Walking and Turning Tasks is Associated with Increased Neck Tone in Parkinson's Disease 
Experimental neurology  2009;219(2):430-438.
Rigidity or hypertonicity is a cardinal symptom of Parkinson's disease (PD). We hypothesized that hypertonicity of the body axis affects functional performance of tasks involving balance, walking and turning. The magnitude of axial postural tone in the neck, trunk and hip segments of 15 subjects with PD (both ON and OFF levodopa) and 15 control subjects was quantified during unsupported standing in an axial twisting device in our laboratory as resistance to torsional rotation. Subjects also performed six functional tests (walking in a figure of eight [Figure of Eight], Timed Up & Go, Berg Balance Scale, supine rolling task [rollover], Functional Reach, and standing 360-deg turn-in-place) in the ON and OFF state. Results showed that PD subjects had increased tone throughout the axis compared to control subjects (p=0.008) and that this increase was most prominent in the neck. In PD subjects, axial tone was related to functional performance, but most strongly for tone at the neck and accounted for an especially large portion of the variability in the performance of the Figure of Eight test (rOFF=0.68 and rON=0.74, p<0.05) and the Rollover test (rOFF=0.67and rON=0.55, p<0.05). Our results suggest that neck tone plays a significant role in functional mobility and that abnormally high postural tone may be an important contributor to balance and mobility disorders in individuals with PD.
PMCID: PMC2775914  PMID: 19573528
Parkinson's disease; postural tone; neck tone; functional performance; balance

Results 1-6 (6)