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Research project: Eye, head and body coordination during turning

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Brief intro here

Research shows that, when turning round, healthy adults first move their eyes towards their target, then their head, their trunk and finally their legs. This ‘eyes first’ sequence helps us use vision to maintain our balance.

In Parkinson’s disease (PD), rotational movements that involve the whole body become increasingly difficult; freezing and falls are frequently provoked by trying to turn round. We suspect that one reason why people with PD find turning so troublesome is that the sequence of eye, head, trunk and leg movement is altered. People with PD appear to move the head and trunk together (rather than turn the head first).

There has been no research on eye movement during turning in PD but equipment exists which allows us to measure the timing, size and direction of eye movements accurately (as well as movements of the head, trunk and legs). We plan to record the sequence of eye, head, trunk and leg movements of 40 people with PD (and 20 people without) as they turn their head in sitting and turn their whole body in standing. We will ask them to wear a lightweight device like a helmet as they look or turn towards a target; the device records where they are looking. Button-sized markers stuck on the head and body record the turning movements of each body part. The information we record about eye and body coordination will answer questions about how movement sequencing changes in PD and inform the development of new approaches to rehabilitation.

Project team

NeAshburn A, Verheyden G, Burnett M, Stack E.

Project funder

Parkinson’s Disease Society 2008-2010

Related research groups

Active Living and Rehabilitation
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