A Novel MRI Compatible Balance Simulator to Detect Postural Instability in Parkinson's Disease


Mark Carpenter, Bastiaan Bloem, Martin McKeown, Tim Inglis, Taylor W. Cleworth


Frontiers in Neurology

Date of Publication


Congratulations to cluster researchers Eveline Pasman, and Drs. Martin McKeown, Taylor Cleworth, Bastiaan R. Bloem J. Timothy Inglis, and Mark G. Carpenter on their recent publication: "A Novel MRI Compatible Balance Simulator to Detect Postural Instability in Parkinson's Disease". 

Postural instability is a debilitating and largely treatment-resistant symptom of Parkinson's disease (PD). A better understanding of the neural substrates contributing to postural instability could lead to new targets for improved pharmacological and neurosurgical interventions. However, investigating these neural substrates necessitates the use of functional MRI scanners, which are almost exclusively horizontally-based.

The team aimed to develop, and validate the use of, an MRI compatible balance simulator to study static and dynamic balance control in PD patients and elderly controls.

The MRI compatible balance simulator allowed participants to actively balance an inverted pendulum by activating postural muscles around the ankle joint while supine. Two studies were performed to compare static and dynamic balance performance between upright stance and simulated stance in PD patients and controls. Study 1 (14 PD; 20 controls) required participants to maintain static balance during upright and simulated stance for 120 s with eyes open and closed. In study 2 (20 PD; 22 controls) participants repeated the static balance task (80 s, eyes closed only), and also completed a dynamic balance task which required maintaining balance while experiencing random anterior-posterior perturbations applied to the trunk/pendulum. Postural sway of the body/pendulum was measured using an angular velocity sensor (SwayStarTM, study 1) and Optotrak motion capture (study 2). Outcome measures were amplitude and frequency of center of mass sway for static balance, and peak and time-to-peak of center of mass displacement and velocity for dynamic balance.

PD patients had larger sway amplitude during both upright and simulated static balance compared to controls. PD patients had larger peak and time-to-peak sway, and larger time-to-peak sway velocity, during simulated, but not upright, dynamic balance compared to controls.

Deficits in static and dynamic balance control can be detected in PD patients using a novel MRI compatible balance simulator. This technique allows for functional neuroimaging to be combined with balance-relevant tasks, and provides a new means to create insights into the neural substrates contributing to postural instability in PD.

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Cluster Student author or Presenter
Eveline Pasman

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The UBC Point Grey campus is situated on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm.

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