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Journal of Aging Research
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 583894, 8 pages
Research Article

Effects of Gait and Cognitive Task Difficulty on Cognitive-Motor Interference in Aging

Department of Physical Therapy, Northeastern University, 360 Huntington Avenue, 6 Robinson Hall, Boston, MA 02115-5000, USA

Received 2 June 2012; Revised 6 September 2012; Accepted 8 October 2012

Academic Editor: Kirk Erickson

Copyright © 2012 Prudence Plummer-D'Amato et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Although gait-related dual-task interference in aging is well established, the effect of gait and cognitive task difficulty on dual-task interference is poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of gait and cognitive task difficulty on cognitive-motor interference in aging. Fifteen older adults (72.1 years, SD 5.2) and 20 young adults (21.7 years, SD 1.6) performed three walking tasks of varying difficulty (self-selected speed, fast speed, and fast speed with obstacle crossing) under single- and dual-task conditions. The cognitive tasks were the auditory Stroop task and the clock task. There was a significant Group Gait Task Cognitive Task interaction for the dual-task effect on gait speed. After adjusting for education, there were no significant effects of gait or cognitive task difficulty on the dual-task effects on cognitive task performance. The results of this study provide evidence that gait task difficulty influences dual-task effects on gait speed, especially in older adults. Moreover, the effects of gait task difficulty on dual-task interference appear to be influenced by the difficulty of the cognitive task. Education is an important factor influencing cognitive-motor interference effects on cognition, but not gait.