Background: Impaired postural control in Parkinson's disease (PD) seriously compromises life quality. Although balance training improves mobility and postural stability, lack of quantitative studies on the neurophysiological mechanisms of balance training in PD impedes the development of patient-specific therapies. We evaluated the effects of a balance-training program using functional balance and mobility tests, posturography, and a postural control model. Methods: Center-of-pressure (COP) data of 40 PD patients before and after a 12-session balance-training program, and 20 healthy control subjects were recorded in four conditions with two tasks on a rigid surface (R-tasks) and two on foam. A postural control model was fitted to describe the posturography data. The model comprises a neuromuscular controller, a time delay, and a gain scaling the internal disturbance torque. Results: Patients' axial rigidity before training resulted in slower COP velocity in R-tasks; which was reflected as lower internal torque gain. Furthermore, patients exhibited poor stability on foam, remarked by abnormal higher sway amplitude. Lower control parameters as well as higher time delay were responsible for patients' abnormal high sway amplitude. Balance training improved all clinical scores on functional balance and mobility. Consistently, improved 'flexibility' appeared as enhanced sway velocity (increased internal torque gain). Balance training also helped patients to develop the 'stability degree' (increase control parameters), and to respond more quickly in unstable condition of stance on foam. Conclusions: Projection of the common posturography measures on a postural control model provided a quantitative framework for unraveling the neurophysiological factors and different recovery mechanisms in impaired postural control in PD.
- Balance training
- Parkinson's disease
- Postural control model
- Power spectral density
- Stability and flexibility degrees