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The Ramp paradigm: Uncovering individual differences in walking to an auditory beat

The Ramp paradigm: Uncovering individual differences in walking to an auditory beat

Name:Agnès Zagala

School/Affiliation:Université de Montréal

Co-Authors:Agnès Zagala, Nicholas E.V. Foster, Floris van Vugt, Fabien Dal Maso, Simone Dalla Bella

Virtual or In-person:In-person


Walking to the beat of an auditory stimulus seems effortless for the majority. 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 tempo while others (“Non-Responders”) show little or no adjustment to the beat. This distinction remains to be experimentally validated. Unfortunately, to date, there is no protocol sensitive to individual differences in adapting the walking pace to rhythmic stimuli. To fill this gap, we developed 1) the TeensyStep device, used for aligning auditory stimulation (e.g. a metronome) to the participants’ spontaneous cadence (steps/min) measured in real time; 2) the Ramp paradigm, a method which tests whether a person adapts to a change in a rhythmic stimulus in a gait task. In this protocol, participants are asked first to walk at their preferred cadence without stimulation. After several steps, a metronome aligned in time to the footfalls is presented. The metronome tempo then progressively departs from the participant’s cadence by either accelerating or decelerating. A consequent change in gait cadence provides an indication of gait adaptation to the auditory rhythm. In this study, we validate the precision of step detection using the TeensyStep method compared to a non-realtime gold standard. We also demonstrate the sensitivity of the Ramp paradigm to individual differences by distinguishing Responders from Non-Responders, and propose a new measure to quantify individual response: the Response score. Taken together, these results help quantify differences in auditory-motor adaptability among individuals.

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