Gait pattern alteration by functional sensory substitution in healthy subjects and in diabetic subjects with peripheral neuropathy

Steven C. Walker, Phala A. Helm, Lawrence A. Lavery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective: To evaluate the ability of diabetic and nondiabetic individuals to learn to use a lower extremity sensory substitution device to cue gait pattern changes. Design: Case-control study. Setting: Gait laboratory. Participants: Thirty diabetic persons and 20 age- and education- matched nondiabetic controls responded to advertisements for study participation. Intervention: Participants walked on a treadmill at three speeds (1, 2, and 2.5mph) with auditory sensory feedback to cue ground contact greater than 80% duration of baseline. Main Outcome Measurements: The variables measured included gait cycle (steps per minute) and number of times per minute that any step during a trial exceeded 80% duration of ground contacted compared with a measured baseline step length for each speed. Results: Persons in both groups were able to rapidly and significantly alter their gait patterns in response to signals from the sensory substitution device, by changing their gait cycles (nondiabetic group, F(17,124) = 5.27, p < .001; diabetic group, F(5,172) = 3.45, p < .001). Post hoc analyses showed early gait cycle modification and error reduction among both groups. The nondiabetic group learned to use the device significantly more quickly than the diabetic group during the slow (1mph, t = 3.57, p < .001) and average (2mph, t = 2.97, p < .05) trials. By the fast (2.5mph) ambulation trial, both groups were performing equally, suggesting a rapid rate of adjustment to the device. No technical failures from gait trainer malfunction occurred during the study. Conclusions: Diabetic persons with neuropathy effectively used lower extremity sensory substitution, and the technology is now available to manufacture a durable, effective lower extremity sensory substitution system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)853-856
Number of pages4
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


Dive into the research topics of 'Gait pattern alteration by functional sensory substitution in healthy subjects and in diabetic subjects with peripheral neuropathy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this