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Kim, S. J., Cho, S. R., & Yoo, G. E. (2017). The applicability of rhythm-motor tasks to a new dual task paradigm for older adults. Frontiers in Neurology, 8(671), 1.

Given the interplay between cognitive and motor functions during walking, cognitive demands required during gait have been investigated with regard to dual task performance. Along with the needs to understand how the type of concurrent task while walking affects gait performance, there are calls for diversified dual tasks that can be applied to older adults with varying levels of cognitive decline. Therefore, this study aimed to examine how rhythm-motor tasks affect dual task performance and gait control, compared to a traditional cognitive-motor task. Also, it examined whether rhythm-motor tasks are correlated with traditional cognitive-motor task performance and cognitive measures. Eighteen older adults without cognitive impairment participated in this study. Each participant was instructed to walk at self-paced tempo without performing a concurrent task (single walking task) and walk while separately performing two types of concurrent tasks: rhythm-motor and cognitive-motor tasks. Rhythm-motor tasks included instrument playing (WalkIP), matching to rhythmic cueing (WalkRC), and instrument playing while matching to rhythmic cueing (WalkIP+RC). The cognitive-motor task involved counting forward by 3s (WalkCount.f3). In each condition, dual task costs (DTC), a measure for how dual tasks affect gait parameters, were measured in terms of walking speed and stride length. The ratio of stride length to walking speed, a measure for dynamic control of gait, was also examined. The results of this study demonstrated that the task type was found to significantly influence these measures. Rhythm-motor tasks were found to interfere with gait parameters to a lesser extent than the cognitive-motor task (WalkCount.f3). In terms of ratio measures, stride length remained at a similar level, walking speed greatly decreased in the WalkCount.f3 condition. Significant correlations between dual task-related measures during rhythm-motor and cognitive-motor tasks support the potential of applying rhythm-motor tasks to dual task methodology. This study presents how rhythm-motor tasks demand cognitive control at different levels than those engaged by cognitive-motor tasks. It also indicates how these new dual tasks can effectively mediate dual task performance indicative of fall risks, while requiring increased cognitive resources but facilitating gait control as a compensatory strategy to maintain gait stability.

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