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J Vestib Res. 2011;21(3):167-74. doi: 10.3233/VES-2011-0415.

Vestibular disorders and dual task performance: impairment when walking a straight path.

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  • 1Bobby R. Alford Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Locomotion is impaired in some people with vestibular disorders. Performance on cognitive tasks is also impaired in many people with vestibular disorders. The goal of this study was to determine if patients with vestibular disorders have decreased ability to complete a dual task performance involving a cognitive task, an additional motor task or both tasks, combined along a linear path. Subjects were normal, had benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or had various vestibular disorders that caused unilateral weakness. They were asked to walk 7.62 m in a straight line with eyes open or closed, without extra tasks, and while nodding the head, naming things, and both nodding and naming. The patients walked significantly slower than controls, especially when performing the cognitive task. Patients had greater ataxia and began veering sooner than normals. The subjects' veering increased significantly with the addition of cognitive tasks. The patient groups did not differ significantly from each other. The changes in velocity did not affect the veering. These data suggest that patients with vestibular disorders are impaired in their ability to complete a linear path when cognitive tasks are added.

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