Characterization of cognitive and motor performance during dual-tasking in healthy older adults and patients with Parkinson's disease

J Neurol. 2013 Feb;260(2):580-9. doi: 10.1007/s00415-012-6683-3. Epub 2012 Sep 29.


The primary purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of dual-tasking on cognitive performance and gait parameters in patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD) without dementia. The impact of cognitive task complexity on cognition and walking was also examined. Eighteen patients with PD (ages 53-88, 10 women; Hoehn and Yahr stage I-II) and 18 older adults (ages 61-84; 10 women) completed two neuropsychological measures of executive function/attention (the Stroop Test and Wisconsin Card Sorting Test). Cognitive performance and gait parameters related to functional mobility of stride were measured under single (cognitive task only) and dual-task (cognitive task during walking) conditions with different levels of difficulty and different types of stimuli. In addition, dual-task cognitive costs were calculated. Although cognitive performance showed no significant difference between controls and PD patients during single or dual-tasking conditions, only the patients had a decrease in cognitive performance during walking. Gait parameters of patients differed significantly from controls at single and dual-task conditions, indicating that patients gave priority to gait while cognitive performance suffered. Dual-task cognitive costs of patients increased with task complexity, reaching significantly higher values then controls in the arithmetic task, which was correlated with scores on executive function/attention (Stroop Color-Word Page). Baseline motor functioning and task executive/attentional load affect the performance of cognitive tasks of PD patients while walking. These findings provide insight into the functional strategies used by PD patients in the initial phases of the disease to manage dual-task interference.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attention / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Comprehension
  • Executive Function
  • Female
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Walking / physiology*