Multitasking Adversely Affects Older Transtibial Amputees

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Researchers found that gait and cognitive performance in older people with transtibial amputations were adversely impacted during dual-task gait testing. Velocity, cadence, stride time, and symmetry were compromised during the testing. Because many daily activities require the multitasking of motor and cognitive tasks, the research team used the dual-task paradigm to evaluate the participants performance on mobility and cognitive tasks.

Study participants included 15 men and nine women with transtibial amputations and a mean age of 62.72 years (±8.59 years). Each participant was tested while walking on an electronic walkway at a self-selected comfortable pace and while walking on an electronic walkway at a self-selected comfortable pace while counting backwards by threes from a number randomly selected between 100 and 150. Cognitive performance, in the form of corrected response rate, was also evaluated as a single task.

The dual-task testing produced poorer performance in velocity (single task = 58.15  ± 23.16cm/s; dual task = 50.92  ± 21.16cm/s), cadence (single task = 76.65  ±15.84 steps/min; dual task = 67.85  ± 15.76 steps/min) and stride time (single task =1,094  ±458.28ms; dual task = 1,241.44 ±513.73ms).

Step length, stance time, and single-limb support time symmetry were also affected, such that less time was spent on the amputated limb during the dual-task testing, according to the authors.

The researchers suggest further study to evaluate the change in cognition-mobility effects over time and the relationship to events such as falls, community ambulation, and reintegration.

The study was published online February 13 in Gait and Posture.