Dual-task costs of gait (variability) parameters are frequently used to probe the grade of automaticity of walking. However, recent studies reported contradicting dual-task costs for different gait variability measures within the same cohorts. The effects of a dual-task on the gait pattern are, thus, not fully understood. The aim of the current study was to analyze the different gait variability components (‘Tolerance’, ‘Noise’, and ‘Covariation’) during dual-task walking compared to single-task walking. In an experimental study, 21 young and healthy adults (11 males, 10 females, age: 24 ± 3 years) were included. The participants completed three experimental conditions: (a) single-task walking, (b) dual-task walking (serial-seven subtractions), and (c) cognitive single task in sitting position. To analyze different gait variability components, we applied a method which distinguishes the three components: ‘Tolerance’, ‘Noise’, and ‘Covariation’ (TNC). To test for differences, we used the statistical parametric mapping method. Compared to single-task walking, the results depict lower gait variability of the result parameters during the dual-task condition at 0–15% (p = 0.010) and 94–100% (p = 0.040) of the stance phase and 0–63% (p < 0.001) during the swing phase. The decreased result parameter variability was due to less (sensorimotor) ‘Noise’ (stance: 2–100%, p < 0.001; swing: 2–59%, p < 0.001) during the dual-task walking condition. In further studies, the sources of the reduced unstructured (sensorimotor) noise in the dual-task condition should be analyzed to better understand the effect of a cognitive dual task on the gait pattern.
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This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All participants provided their written informed consent after they were briefed about the research protocol which complied with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki and was approved by Ethical Commission of the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena (No. FSV 18/11).
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