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August 01, 2007

Tango for Parkinson's

RADIO KWMU NewsRoom: Parkinson's patients tango their way to treatment

(Click to enlarge)

St. Louis, MO - Two researchers at Washington University's School of Medicine in St. Louise are studying the therapeutic benefits of dance.

This article talks about a program where Parkinson's patients are assigned to various movement forms - Tango, Tai Chi, Fox Trot, Waltz.


Madeleine Hackney is one of two researchers conducting the study and is also the dance instructor. She was a professional dancer in New York City for 11 years.

"The tango in particular is a very improvisational dance form," Hackney notes. "So, the steps are varied, they can choose the steps that they want. They are seldom wrong by choosing a particular step."

Hackney says they're finding the fox trot and waltz are also promising therapies, because the steps are more codified. So after step A, B must follow. This helps with balance and mobility in the patients.

The people in the study span in age from 37-79. Some are assigned to tango, and others are assigned to Waltz and Fox Trot, or Tai Chai, which they're also looking at as a possible therapy.

Dr. Gammon Earhart, assistant professor of Physical Therapy and the project's main researcher, shows off the technology as he asks patients to stand on one leg or with one foot in front of the other for as long as they can.

"We also have this device here on the floor which is an instrumented walkway," Earhart said. "It's like a piece of carpet with sensors built into it. And as a person walks along that walkway their footprints are painted on the computer screen.

"And we can analyze all the different features of their walking from those data."

An MP3 radio broadcast of this story is also available on the website.

Posted by joegrohens at August 1, 2007 06:03 PM