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Dr Michael Thaut - Research with Parkinson's disease sufferers



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

As quoted in The Singing Neanderthals – Dr Steven Mithen

… we have more than a decade of meticulous studies exploring the relationship between rhythm and movement conducted by the neuroscientist Michael Thaut, director of the Centre for Biomedical Research at Colorado State University and himself an accomplished musician.

One of Thaut's key studies has been with people who suffer from Parkinson's disease. This is an impairment of the basal ganglia of the brain, which, among other effects, disturbs the temporal aspect of motor control.

Thaut explored the impact of rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS) on Parkinson’s sufferers, simply by playing them a regular beat as they were asked to walk on both flat and sloping surfaces. He had sufficient numbers of people to divide them into three groups.

  • one received a daily thirty-minute ‘gait-training' session with RAS for three weeks;
  • another received the same training session but without RAS;
  • the third group received no training at all

He found that significant improvements in walking emerged only in the RAS-trained group. Among these patients, their stride velocity increased by 35 per cent, their stride length by 12 per cent, and their step cadence by 10 per cent. Thaut extended his study to find that without any further training the improvements in gait gradually fell away and were no longer perceptible after five weeks.

When expressed as percentages, these improvements in walking achieved by the provision of a regular beat may not appear very impressive. But when one watches a video of Thaut at work the improvements in gait are really striking - a shift from cumbersome, shuffling movements to a quite unexpected degree of muscle control and fluid movement.

The source of the experience

Scientist other

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps


Music therapy