Six month lower-leg mechanical tactile sensory stimulation alters functional network connectivity associated with improved gait in older adults with peripheral neuropathy – A pilot study

Chun Liang Hsu (Corresponding Author), Brad Manor, Ikechkwu Iloputaife, Lars I.E. Oddsson, Lewis Lipsitz

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

Abstract

Foot sole somatosensory impairment associated with peripheral neuropathy (PN) is prevalent and a strong independent risk factor for gait disturbance and falls in older adults. Walkasins, a lower-limb sensory prosthesis, has been shown to improve gait and mobility in people with PN by providing afferent input related to foot sole pressure distributions via lower-leg mechanical tactile stimulation. Given that gait and mobility are regulated by sensorimotor and cognitive brain networks, it is plausible improvements in gait and mobility from wearing the Walkasins may be associated with elicited neuroplastic changes in the brain. As such, this study aimed to examine changes in brain network connectivity after 26 weeks of daily use of the prosthesis among individuals with diagnosed PN and balance problems. In this exploratory investigation, assessments of participant characteristics, Functional Gait Assessment (FGA), and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging were completed at study baseline and 26 weeks follow-up. We found that among those who have completed the study (N = 8; mean age 73.7 years) we observed a five-point improvement in FGA performance as well as significant changes in network connectivity over the 26 weeks that were correlated with improved FGA performance. Specifically, greater improvement in FGA score over 26 weeks was associated with increased connectivity within the Default Mode Network (DMN; p < 0.01), the Somatosensory Network (SMN; p < 0.01), and the Frontoparietal Network (FPN; p < 0.01). FGA improvement was also correlated with increased connectivity between the DMN and the FPN (p < 0.01), and decreased connectivity between the SMN and both the FPN (p < 0.01) and cerebellum (p < 0.01). These findings suggest that 26 weeks of daily use of the Walkasins device may provide beneficial neural modulatory changes in brain network connectivity via the sensory replacement stimulation that are relevant to gait improvements among older adults with PN.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1027242
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Volume14
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • brain networks
  • fMRI
  • functional connectivity
  • neuroprosthesis
  • peripheral neuropathy
  • sensory substitution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Six month lower-leg mechanical tactile sensory stimulation alters functional network connectivity associated with improved gait in older adults with peripheral neuropathy – A pilot study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this