Walking and talking: an investigation of cognitive-motor dual tasking in multiple sclerosis

F Hamilton, L Rochester, L Paul, D Rafferty, CP O'Leary, JJ Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Deficits in motor functioning, including walking, and in cognitive functions, including attention, are known to be prevalent in multiple sclerosis (MS), though little attention has been paid to how impairments in these areas of functioning interact.
Objectives: This study investigated the effects of performing a concurrent cognitive task when walking in people with MS. Level of task demand was manipulated to investigate whether this affected level of dual-task decrement.
Method: Eighteen participants with MS and 18 healthy controls took part. Participants completed walking and cognitive tasks under single- and dual-task conditions. Results: Compared to healthy controls, MS participants showed greater decrements in performance under dual-task conditions in cognitive task performance, walking speed and swing time variability. In the MS group, the degree of decrement under dual-task conditions was related to levels of fatigue, a measure of general cognitive functioning and self-reported everyday cognitive errors, but not to measures of disease severity or duration.
Conclusions: Difficulty with walking and talking in MS may be a result of a divided attention deficit or of overloading of the working memory system, and further investigation is needed. We suggest that difficulty with walking and talking in MS may lead to practical problems in everyday life, including potentially increasing the risk of falls. Clinical tools to assess cognitive--motor dual-tasking ability are needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1215-1227
Number of pages13
JournalMultiple Sclerosis
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2009


  • attention
  • cognition
  • gait
  • memory
  • multiple sclerosis
  • nervous system disorders
  • neuropsychological tests


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