Preliminary Study of Vibrotactile Feedback during Home-Based Balance and Coordination Training in Individuals with Cerebellar Ataxia

Safa Jabri, David D. Bushart, Catherine Kinnaird, Tian Bao, Angel Bu, Vikram G. Shakkottai, Kathleen H. Sienko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Intensive balance and coordination training is the mainstay of treatment for symptoms of impaired balance and mobility in individuals with hereditary cerebellar ataxia. In this study, we compared the effects of home-based balance and coordination training with and without vibrotactile SA for individuals with hereditary cerebellar ataxia. Ten participants (five males, five females; 47 ± 12 years) with inherited forms of cerebellar ataxia were recruited to participate in a 12-week crossover study during which they completed two six-week blocks of balance and coordination training with and without vibrotactile SA. Participants were instructed to perform balance and coordination exercises five times per week using smartphone balance trainers that provided written, graphic, and video guidance and measured trunk sway. The pre-, per-, and post-training performance were assessed using the Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia (SARA), SARAposture&gaitsub-scores, Dynamic Gait Index, modified Clinical Test of Sensory Interaction in Balance, Timed Up and Go performed with and without a cup of water, and multiple kinematic measures of postural sway measured with a single inertial measurement unit placed on the participants’ trunks. To explore the effects of training with and without vibrotactile SA, we compared the changes in performance achieved after participants completed each six-week block of training. Among the seven participants who completed both blocks of training, the change in the SARA scores and SARAposture&gaitsub-scores following training with vibrotactile SA was not significantly different from the change achieved following training without SA (p > 0.05). However, a trend toward improved SARA scores and SARAposture&gait sub-scores was observed following training with vibrotactile SA; compared to their pre-vibrotacile SA training scores, participants significantly improved their SARA scores (mean = – 1.21, p = 0.02) and SARAposture&gaitsub-scores (mean = – 1.00, p = 0.01). In contrast, no significant changes in SARAposture&gaitsub-scores were observed following the six weeks of training without SA compared to their pre-training scores immediately preceding the training block without vibrotactile SA (p > 0.05). No significant changes in trunk kinematic sway parameters were observed as a result of training (p > 0.05). Based on the findings from this preliminary study, balance and coordination training improved the participants’ motor performance, as captured through the SARA. Vibrotactile SA may be a beneficial addition to training regimens for individuals with hereditary cerebellar ataxia, but additional research with larger sample sizes is needed to assess the significance and generalizability of these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3512
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2022


  • balance rehabilitation
  • cerebellar ataxia
  • sensory augmentation
  • telerehabilitation
  • wearable sensors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Information Systems
  • Biochemistry
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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