Auditory and Visual External Cues Have Different Effects on Spatial but Similar Effects on Temporal Measures of Gait Variability

Joao R. Vaz, Troy Rand, Jessica Fujan-Hansen, Mukul Mukherjee, Nick Stergiou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Walking synchronized to external cues is a common practice in clinical settings. Several research studies showed that this popular gait rehabilitation tool alters gait variability. There is also recent evidence which suggests that alterations in the temporal structure of the external cues could restore gait variability at healthy levels. It is unknown, however, if such alterations produce similar effects if the cueing modalities used are different; visual or auditory. The modality could affect gait variability differentially, since there is evidence that auditory cues mostly act in the temporal domain of gait, while visual cues act in the spatial domain of gait. This study investigated how synchronizing steps with visual and auditory cues that are presented with different temporal structures could affect gait variability during treadmill walking. Three different temporal structured stimuli were used, invariant, fractal and random, in both modalities. Stride times, length and speed were determined, and their fractal scaling (an indicator of complexity) and coefficient of variation (CV) were calculated. No differences were observed in the CV, regardless of the cueing modality and the temporal structure of the stimuli. In terms of the stride time’s fractal scaling, we observed that the fractal stimulus induced higher values compared to random and invariant stimuli. The same was also observed in stride length, but only for the visual cueing modality. No differences were observed for stride speed. The selection of the cueing modality seems to be an important feature of gait rehabilitation. Visual cues are possibly a better choice due to the dependency on vision during walking. This is particularly evident during treadmill walking, a common practice in a clinical setting. Because of the treadmill effect on the temporal domain of gait, the use of auditory cues can be minimal, compared to visual cues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number67
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
StatePublished - Feb 11 2020


  • biomechanics
  • fractals
  • metronomes
  • stability
  • walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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