The role of arm swing in human gait: a study in healthy participants and Parkinson patients

Researcher: Joyce Weersink, MSc (MD/PhD student)

Expected thesis defense: 2021

Copromotor: Dr. Bauke de Jong, MD, PhD (Neurology, UMCG)

Collaborators: Prof. dr. Teus van Laar, MD, PhD (Neurology, UMCG)

Funding: UMCG

Locomotion of quadrupeds, with abrupt switches between e.g. trot and gallop, obviously requires coordinated action of four limbs. Bipedal gait in human similarly exhibits a characteristic four-limb pattern with anti-phase arm swing in a frequency identical to that of the lower limb oscillations. The onset of locomotion or gait initiation, is defined as the phase between standing motionless and steady-state locomotion. Patients with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) typically exhibit short shuffling steps and reduced arm swing, while they often suffer from difficulties in both onset and continuation of gait, including freezing of gait. Decreased supplementary motor area (SMA) activation, which is a strong finding in PD patients, has been associated with both initiation failures and gait abnormalities characterized by an impaired anti-phase cyclic movement organization underlying reduced arm swing. Cerebral circuitry, including the SMA, controlling the onset and continuation of human locomotion and its pathophysiology remains to be further identified. Neuroimaging techniques that explore functioning of and connectivity within these circuits can be used to understand how these gait disturbances develop as well as identify potential targets for medical and surgical interventions.
The objective of this project is to examine how arm swing contributes to the onset and continuation of locomotion in healthy participants and PD patients and to study its underlying functional brain networks by using EEG-EMG-IMU recordings.


  • Weersink, J. B., de Jong, B. M., Halliday, D. M. & Maurits, N. M. (2021). Intermuscular coherence analysis in older adults reveals that gait-related arm swing drives lower limb muscles via subcortical and cortical pathways. Journal of Physiology.
  • Weersink, J. B., Gefferie, S. R., van Laar, T., Maurits, N. M. & de Jong, B. M. (2020). Pre-Movement Cortico-Muscular Dynamics Underlying Improved Parkinson Gait Initiation after Instructed Arm Swing. Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, 10, 4, p. 1675-1693
  • Weersink, J. B., Maurits, N. M., & de Jong, B. M. (2019). EEG time-frequency analysis provides arguments for arm swing support in human gait control. Gait & Posture70, 71-78.…)gaitpost.2019.02.017
  • Weersink, J. B., Eikelboom, C., Dominguez Vega, Z. T., Maurits, N. M., & de Jong, B. M. (2018). Forward arm extension as a cue for gait initiation in Parkinson’s patients. Movement Disorders33(11), 1826-1827.

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