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Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sam Stuart, Dr Brook Galna, Dr Susan Lord, Professor Lynn Rochester


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Background/Issue of ConcernVisual exploration of the environment through appropriate eye-movements is vital for safe and effective walking, and is influenced by cognitive processes. Cognitive impairment is common in Parkinson’s disease (PD) and likely affects visual exploration, and so contributes to walking problems and falls risk. Rationale/Purpose or Research Question To investigate visual exploration using eye-movements during walking in PD in response to environmental and attentional demand, and to examine the association between eye-movements and cognition.Process – What Did You Do? or Method30 PD participants and 30 age-matched controls underwent visual, cognitive and clinical assessments. Participants then walked under varied environmental conditions (straight, through a door and turning) and attentional demand (single and dual-task). A Dikablis mobile eye-tracker measured saccadic (fast) eye-movements, a proxy for purposeful visual attention.Findings/Outcome or ResultsPD participants made fewer eye-movements (p=.009) suggesting they explore the environment less. Eye-movement significantly increased with environmental complexity (p < .001) and decreased with attentional demand (dual-task) (p<.001) for both groups. A surprising finding showed a relationship between poorer cognition (particularly attention) and increased eye-movement during several of the walking trials for PD only (e.g. straight walking; r = -0.53, p=.021).ConclusionPD made fewer eye-movements than controls when walking but changed their eye-movement frequency the same as controls in response to environmental and attentional demand. Interestingly within PD, poorer cognition was associated with more frequent eye-movements, which may reflect a reduced capacity to cognitively inhibit non-purposeful eye-movements to irrelevant stimuli.Implications for Practice/Trust/Role or Service• PD explore their environment less when walking which may increase falls risk• Attention is associated with exploration and may be a target for intervention

Publication metadata

Author(s): Stuart S, Galna B, Lord S, Rochester L

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: NIHR - Making a difference through clinical research: Opportunities for Nurses, Midwives and Allied Health Professionals: North East Regional Meeting, Affiliation: NIHR

Year of Conference: 2015

Acceptance date: 09/04/2015