Motor learning in people with Parkinson’s disease: Implications for fall prevention across the spectrum

Falls are a significant burden for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), however, individuals across the spectrum of disease severity respond differently to fall prevention interventions. Despite the multifactorial causes of falls in people with PD, recent work has provided insight into interventions that hold promise for fall prevention. Further, studies have begun to identify patient characteristics that may predict responsiveness to such interventions.

The authors discuss (i) the postural motor learning abilities of people with mild versus severe PD that could affect their ability to benefit from fall prevention interventions, (ii) how people with different severity of PD respond to such interventions, and (iii) the practical considerations of providing effective fall prevention interventions for people with PD across the spectrum of disease severity.

This narrative review consolidates recent work on postural motor learning and fall prevention rehabilitation involving exercise in people with PD. People with PD are able to improve postural motor control through practice, enabling them to benefit from exercise which challenges their gait and balance to reduce falling. Worsening of axial and cognitive symptoms may result in diminished learning, and those with more severe PD may require fully supervised, high intensity programs to reduce falls.

Understanding how people with PD across the spectrum of disease severity differ in their postural motor learning ability and response to different fall prevention interventions will enable researchers and clinicians to refine such interventions and their delivery to minimize falls and their negative sequelae in people with PD.