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Stergiou -

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Human physiological signals are inherently rhythmic and have a hallmark feature in that even distant intrasignal measurements are related to each other. This relationship is termed long-range correlation and has been recognized as an indicator of the optimal state of the observed physiological systems, among which the locomotor system. Loss of long-range correlations has been found as a result of aging as well as disease, which can be evaluated with detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA). Recently, DFA and the scaling exponent α have been employed for understanding the degeneration of temporal regulation of human walking biorhythms in, for example, Parkinson disease (PD). However, heterogeneous evidence on scaling exponent α values reported in the literature across different population groups has put into question what constitutes a healthy physiological pattern. Therefore, the purpose of this systematic review was to investigate the functional thresholds of scaling exponent α in young vs. older adults, as well as between patients with PD and age-matched asymptomatic controls. Aging and PD exhibited a negative effect size (i.e., led to decreased long-range correlations) of −0.20 and −0.53, respectively. Our meta-analysis based on 14 studies provides evidence that a mean scaling exponent α threshold of 0.86 [2 standard error (0.76, 0.96)] is able to optimally discriminate temporal organization of stride interval between young and old, whereas 0.82 (0.72, 0.92) differentiates patients with PD and age-matched asymptomatic controls. The optimal thresholds presented in this review together with the consensus guidelines for using DFA might allow a more sensitive and reliable application of this metric for understanding human walking physiology than has been achieved to date.


This article was orginially published by Frontiers Media in Frontiers in Physiology on June 23, 2020 and can be accessed at

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Frontiers in Physiology



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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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