, Volume 232, Issue 1, pp 263-271

The ability of people with Parkinson’s disease to modify dual-task performance in response to instructions during simple and complex walking tasks

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Abstract

Gait impairments are a common and consequential motor symptom in Parkinson’s disease (PD). A cognitive strategy that incorporates instructions to concentrate on specific parameters of walking is an effective approach to gait rehabilitation for persons with PD during single-task and simple dual-task walking conditions. This study examined the ability to modify dual-task walking in response to instructions during a complex walking task in people with PD compared to healthy older adults (HOA). Eleven people with PD and twelve HOA performed a cognitive task while walking with either a usual base or a narrow base of support. Dual-task walking and cognitive task performance were characterized under two conditions—when participants were instructed focus on walking and when they were instructed to focus on the cognitive task. During both usual base and narrow base walking, instructions affected cognitive task response latency, with slower performance when instructed to focus on walking compared to the cognitive task. Regardless of task or instructions, cognitive task performance was slower in participants with PD compared to HOA. During usual base walking, instructions influenced gait speed for both people with PD and HOA, with faster gait speed when instructed to focus on walking compared to the cognitive task. In contrast, during the narrow base walking, instructions affected gait speed only for HOA, but not for people with PD. This suggests that among people with PD the ability to modify walking in response to instructions depends on the complexity of the walking task.