Objective: Motor imagery during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) allows assessment of brain activity during tasks, like walking, that cannot be completed in an MRI scanner. We used gait imagery to assess the neural pathophysiology of locomotion in Parkinson disease (PD). Methods: Brain activity was measured in five locomotor regions (supplementary motor area (SMA), globus pallidus (GP), putamen, mesencephalic locomotor region, cerebellar locomotor region) during simple (forward) and complex (backward, turning) gait imagery. Brain activity was correlated to overground walking velocity. Results: Across tasks, PD exhibited reduced activity in the globus pallidus compared to controls. People with PD, but not controls, exhibited more activity in the SMA during imagined turning compared to forward or backward walking. In PD, walking speed was correlated to brain activity in several regions. Conclusions: Altered SMA activity in PD during imagined turning may represent compensatory neural adaptations during complex gait. The lowered activity and positive correlation to locomotor function in GP suggests reduced activity in this region may relate to locomotor dysfunction. Significance: This study elucidates changes in neural activity during gait in PD, underscoring the importance of testing simple and complex tasks. Results support a positive relationship between activity in locomotor regions and walking ability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)995-1005
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014


  • FMRI
  • Gait
  • Imagery
  • Parkinson disease


Dive into the research topics of 'Brain activity during complex imagined gait tasks in Parkinson disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this