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The ramp paradigm: A new protocol for uncovering individual differences in walking to an auditory beat

The ramp paradigm: A new protocol for uncovering individual differences in walking to an auditory beat

Presenter Name:Agnès Zagala

School/Affiliation:University of Montréal

Co-Authors:Nicholas E.V. Foster, Floris van Vugt, Simone Dalla Bella


Walking to the beat of an auditory stimulus seems effortless for most humans. However, recent studies suggest significant individual differences in the spontaneous tendency to synchronize to the beat. Some individuals (“responders”) tend to adapt their walking pace to the stimulus beat while others (“non-responders”) show little or no adjustment to the beat. This distinction remains to be empirically validated, and little is known about the mechanisms explaining these differences. Unfortunately, to date, there is no protocol sensitive to individual differences in adapting to rhythmic stimuli while walking. To fill this gap, we introduce the ramp paradigm, which allows to test whether a person adapts or not to a rhythmic change in a gait task. In this protocol, a participant is asked first to walk at a spontaneous cadence without metronome. After several steps, a metronome starts in synchrony with the footfalls. Then, the stimulus tempo progressively departs from the participant’s cadence by either accelerating or decelerating. Reliable measurement of the timing of the participant’s cadence is ensured by using force-sensitive resistors (FSRs) and a
portable Teensy device. Pilot data will be presented. To distinguish the capacities of the participant regarding synchronization and their spontaneous answer, instructions will also be manipulated asking the participant to synchronize, walk naturally or ignore the stimulus. The method aims to quantify the individual adaptation to tempo changes in the beat, thus allowing to objectively distinguish responders from non-responders. This will pave the way to the study of mechanisms driving individual differences in gait synchronization.

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