Effects of an attention demanding task on dynamic stability during treadmill walking

Jonathan B. Dingwell, Roland T. Robb, Karen L. Troy, Mark D. Grabiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Background. People exhibit increased difficulty balancing when they perform secondary attention-distracting tasks while walking. However, a previous study by Grabiner and Troy (J. Neuroengineering Rehabil., 2005) found that young healthy subjects performing a concurrent Stroop task while walking on a motorized treadmill exhibited decreased step width variability. However, measures of variability do not directly quantify how a system responds to perturbations. This study re-analyzed data from Grabiner and Troy 2005 to determine if performing the concurrent Stroop task directly affected the dynamic stability of walking in these same subjects. Methods. Thirteen healthy volunteers walked on a motorized treadmill at their self-selected constant speed for 10 minutes both while performing the Stroop test and during undisturbed walking. This Stroop test consisted of projecting images of the name of one color, printed in text of a different color, onto a wall and asking subjects to verbally identify the color of the text. Three-dimensional motions of a marker attached to the base of the neck (C5/T1) were recorded. Marker velocities were calculated over 3 equal intervals of 200 sec each in each direction. Mean variability was calculated for each time series as the average standard deviation across all strides. Both "local" and "orbital" dynamic stability were quantified for each time series using previously established methods. These measures directly quantify how quickly small perturbations grow or decay, either continuously in real time (local) or discretely from one cycle to the next (orbital). Differences between Stroop and Control trials were evaluated using a 2-factor repeated measures ANOVA. Results. Mean variability of trunk movements was significantly reduced during the Stroop tests compared to normal walking. Conversely, local and orbital stability results were mixed: some measures showed slight increases, while others showed slight decreases. In many cases, different subjects responded differently to the Stroop test. While some of our comparisons reached statistical significance, many did not. In general, measures of variability and dynamic stability reflected different properties of walking dynamics, consistent with previous findings. Conclusion. These findings demonstrate that the decreased movement variability associated with the Stroop task did not translate to greater dynamic stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalJournal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Informatics


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of an attention demanding task on dynamic stability during treadmill walking'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this