Influence of the environment on cognitive-motor interaction during walking in people living with and without multiple sclerosis

Douglas A. Wajda, Tobia Zanotto, Jacob J. Sosnoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Motor and cognitive impairments are highly prevalent in people with multiple sclerosis (pwMS). The current theoretical frameworks of cognitive-motor interaction (CMI) suggest that the environment can influence both motor and cognitive performance during walking. However, the relationship between increasing environmental demands and CMI in pwMS remains to be elucidated. Research question: What is the impact of increased environmental demands on CMI during walking in people living with and without MS? Methods: Twenty pwMS and 20 age-matched healthy adults (HA) participated in this cross-sectional study. Participants (age = 57.6 ± 7.8 years) performed four walks (baseline walking (BW), obstacle walking (OW), narrow walking (NW), and narrow with obstacles (NO)) in single-task and dual-task (serial-7 subtraction test) conditions. The dual-task costs (DTC) of gait (% change in walking time) and cognition (% change in correctly verbalized utterances) were calculated to quantify CMI. Secondary outcomes included physiological profile assessment (PPA), measures of cognition and falls efficacy scale international (FES-I). Results: Mixed-factor ANOVAs revealed no main effect of task (F = 1.71, p = 0.196) and group (F = 0.71, p = 0.406) on DTC of gait, while there were significant main effects of both task (F = 23.75, p < 0.001) and group (F = 6.53, p = 0.015) on DTC of cognition. Simple main effects revealed that pwMS had a significantly higher DTC of cognition during BW (+37.6 %, p=0.013), NW (+34.2 %, p=0.014) and NO (+49 %, p=0.016) compared to HA. Additionally, DTC of cognition increased during the more environmentally demanding conditions compared to BW (range: +28.4 % to +54.2 %, all p-values<0.01) in both pwMS and HA. Only DTCs of cognition were significantly correlated with PPA and FES-I. Significance: The study findings suggest that CMI may be influenced by the individual/environment at levels above those described by the more mechanistic theories of attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-25
Number of pages6
JournalGait and Posture
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Cognition
  • Cognitive-motor interference
  • Dual-task
  • Gait
  • Multiple sclerosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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