Near-Infrared Spectroscopy in Gait Disorders: Is It Time to Begin?

Vera Gramigna, Giovanni Pellegrino, Antonio Cerasa, Simone Cutini, Roberta Vasta, Giuseppe Olivadese, Iolanda Martino, Aldo Quattrone

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Walking is a complex motor behavior with a special relevance in clinical neurology. Many neurological diseases, such as Parkinson's disease and stroke, are characterized by gait disorders whose neurofunctional correlates are poorly investigated. Indeed, the analysis of real walking with the standard neuroimaging techniques poses strong challenges, and only a few studies on motor imagery or walking observation have been performed so far. Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is becoming an important research tool to assess functional activity in neurological populations or for special tasks, such as walking, because it allows investigating brain hemodynamic activity in an ecological setting, without strong immobility constraints. A systematic review following PRISMA guidelines was conducted on the fNIRS-based examination of gait disorders. Twelve of the initial yield of 489 articles have been included in this review. The lesson learnt from these studies suggest that oxy-hemoglobin levels within the prefrontal and premotor cortices are more sensitive to compensation strategies reflecting postural control and restoration of gait disorders. Although this field of study is in its relative infancy, the evidence provided encourages the translation of fNIRS in clinical practice, as it offers a unique opportunity to explore in depth the activity of the cortical motor system during real walking in neurological patients. We also discuss to what extent fNIRS may be applied for assessing the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)402-412
Number of pages11
JournalNeurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2017


  • fNIRS
  • freezing of gait
  • motor cortex
  • Parkinson's disease
  • prefrontal cortex
  • stroke
  • walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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  • Cite this

    Gramigna, V., Pellegrino, G., Cerasa, A., Cutini, S., Vasta, R., Olivadese, G., Martino, I., & Quattrone, A. (2017). Near-Infrared Spectroscopy in Gait Disorders: Is It Time to Begin? Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, 31(5), 402-412.