Impairments in the ability to perform another task while walking (ie, dual tasking [DT]) are associated with an increased risk of falling. Here we describe a program we developed specifically to improve DT performance while walking based on motor learning principles and task-specific training. We examined feasibility, potential efficacy, retention, and transfer to the performance of untrained tasks in a pilot study among 7 patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). Seven patients (Hoehn and Yahr stage, 2.1±0.2) were evaluated before, after, and 1 month after 4 weeks of DT training. Gait speed and gait variability were measured during usual walking and during 4 DT conditions. The 4-week program of one-on-one training included walking while performing several distinct cognitive tasks. Gait speed and gait variability during DT significantly improved. Improvements were also seen in the DT conditions that were not specifically trained and were retained 1 month after training. These initial findings support the feasibility of applying a task-specific DT gait training program for patients with PD and suggest that it positively affects DT gait, even in untrained tasks. The present results are also consistent with the possibility that DT gait training enhances divided attention abilities during walking.
Copyright © 2012 American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.