The Role of Attention in Walking in Parkinson's Disease
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Parkinson’s disease affects both cognitive and motor function. The purpose of this study was to look at the role of attention and walking in people with Parkinson’s disease (n = 15) as compared to a healthy, matched control group (n = 15). Participants completed a variety of cognitive tests designed to measure vigilance, executive control, and working memory. They then performed n-back tasks with fixed- and self-paced presentation of stimuli, while seated and while walking along a GAITRite® mat, in counterbalanced order. Walking variables included velocity, stride length, cycle time, and double support. Single-task results showed people with Parkinson’s performed worse on tasks of executive control, walking velocity, and cycle time. Significant dual-task costs were found for most gait variables and n-back accuracy, with no difference between groups. Executive control predicted velocity in both groups, but not dual-task costs. These findings highlight the role of cognition in walking in Parkinson’s.