Optic flow improves step width and length in older adults while performing dual task
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BackgroundDual-task paradigms are used to investigate gait and cognitive declines in older adults (OA). Optic-flow is a virtual reality environment where the scene flows past the subject while walking on a treadmill, mimicking real-life locomotion.
AimsTo investigate cost of environment (no optic-flow v. optic-flow) while completing single- and dual-task walking and dual-task costs (DTC; single- v. dual-task) in optic-flow and no optic-flow environments.
MethodsTwenty OA and seven younger adults (YA) walked on a self-paced treadmill in 3-min segments per task and both environments. Five task conditions included: no task, semantic fluency (category), phonemic fluency (letters), word reading, and serial-subtraction.
ResultsOAs had a benefit of optic-flow compared to no optic-flow for step width (p = 0.015) and step length (p = 0.045) during letters compared to the YA. During letters, OA experienced improvement in step width DTC; whereas YA had a decrement in step width DTC from no optic-flow to optic-flow (p = 0.038). During serial-subtraction, OA had less step width DTC when compared to YA in both environments (p = 0.02).
DiscussionDuring letters, step width and step length improved in OA while walking in optic-flow. Also, step width DTC differed between the two groups. Sensory information from optic-flow appears to benefit OA. Letters relies more on verbal ability and word knowledge, which are preserved in aging. However, YA use a complex speech style during dual tasking, searching for complex words and an increased speed of speech.
ConclusionsOA can benefit from optic-flow by improving spatial gait parameters, specifically, step width, during dual-task walking.
author list (cited authors)
Leeder, T., Fallahtafti, F., Schieber, M., Myers, S. A., Blaskewicz Boron, J., & Yentes, J. M.