Author(s): Regnaux JP, Roberston J, Smail DB, Daniel O, Bussel B
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Abstract BACKGROUND: The aim of the study was to assess the attentional requirements of steady state treadmill walking in human subjects using a dual task paradigm. The extent of decrement of a secondary (cognitive) RT task provides a measure of the attentional resources required to maintain performance of the primary (locomotor) task. Varying the level of difficulty of the reaction time (RT) task is used to verify the priority of allocation of attentional resources. METHODS: 11 healthy adult subjects were required to walk while simultaneously performing a RT task. Participants were instructed to bite a pressure transducer placed in the mouth as quickly as possible in response to an unpredictable electrical stimulation applied on the back of the neck. Each subject was tested under five different experimental conditions: simple RT task alone and while walking, recognition RT task alone and while walking, walking alone. A foot switch system composed of a pressure sensitive sensor was placed under the heel and forefoot of each foot to determine the gait cycle duration. RESULTS: Gait cycle duration was unchanged (p > 0.05) by the addition of the RT task. Regardless of the level of difficulty of the RT task, the RTs were longer during treadmill walking than in sitting conditions (p < 0.01) indicating that an increased amount of resources are required for the maintainance of walking performance on a treadmill at a steady state. No interaction (p > 0.05) was found between the attentional demand of the walking task and the decrement of performance found in the RT task under varying levels of difficulty. This finding suggests that the healthy subjects prioritized the control of walking at the expense of cognitive performance. CONCLUSION: We conclude that treadmill walking in young adults is not a purely automatic task. The methodology and outcome measures used in this study provide an assessment of the attentional resources required by walking on the treadmill at a steady state.
This article was published in J Neuroeng Rehabil
and referenced in International Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation