A fascinatingly simple study from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, has shed some light on the effect of darkness on people with Parkinson’s ability to walk. A graduate student completing her Ph.D. in the department of Psychology, Kaylena Ehgoetz Martens, examined 19 Parkinson’s patients using new virtual-reality equipment to understand the effect of sensory perception on freezing gait.
Ms. Martens had each of the 19 participants walk through a doorway or walk into open space at various times. The amount of light available to them was gradually changed each time. As available light was diminished, freezing gait episodes increased. It didn’t matter if it was in the doorway or open space. All participants experienced freezing gait when in complete darkness. Results of this study indicate that impairment in sensory perception function may be the mechanism behind impairment of movement in Parkinson’s disease.