Walking and cognition, but not symptoms, correlate with dual task cost of walking in multiple sclerosis

Robert W. Motl, Jacob J. Sosnoff, Deirdre Dlugonski, Lara A. Pilutti, Rachel Klaren, Brian M. Sandroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Background: Performing a cognitive task while walking results in a reduction of walking performance among persons with MS. To date, very little is known about correlates of this dual task cost (DTC) of walking in MS. Purpose: We examined walking performance, cognitive processing speed, and symptoms of fatigue, depression, anxiety, and pain as correlates of DTC of walking in MS. Methods: 82 persons with MS undertook a 6-min walk test (6MWT) and completed the Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS), Short-form of the McGill Pain Questionnaire (SF-MPQ), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), and self-reported Expanded Disability Status Scale (SR-EDSS). The participants completed 4 trials of walking at a self-selected pace on an electronic walkway that recorded spatiotemporal parameters of gait. The first 2 trials were performed without a cognitive task, whereas the second 2 trials were completed while performing a modified Word List Generation task. Results: There were significant and large declines in gait performance with the addition of a cognitive task for velocity (p<.001, η2=.52), cadence (p<.001, η2=.49), and step length (p<.001, η2=.23). 6MWT and SDMT scores correlated with DTC for velocity (r=-.41, p<.001 and r=-.32, p<.001, respectively) and step length (r=-.45, p<.001 and r=-.37, p<.001, respectively); there were no significant associations between FSS, SF-MPQ, and HADS scores with the DTC of walking. Regression analyses indicated that 6MW, but not SDMT, explained variance in DTC for velocity (δR2=.11, p<.001) and step length (δR2=.13, p<.001), after controlling for SR-EDSS scores. Conclusion: Walking performance might be a target of interventions for reducing the DTC of walking in MS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)870-874
Number of pages5
JournalGait and Posture
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by a pilot grant from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society ( PP1695 ). RWM is a consultant and funded researcher for Biogen Idec and Acorda Therapeutics.


  • Cognition
  • Fatigue
  • Gait
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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