Day-to-day walking-related activities frequently involve the simultaneous performance of two or more tasks (i.e., dual task). Dual task ability is influenced by higher order cognitive and cortical control mechanisms. Recently, it has been shown that the concomitant execution of an attention-demanding task affected postural control in subject with cervical dystonia (CD). However, no study has investigated whether dual tasking might deteriorate gait performance in CD patients. To investigate whether adding a concomitant motor and cognitive tasks could affect walking performance in CD subjects.17 CD patients and 19 healthy subjects (HS) participated in this pilot case-control study. Gait performance was evaluated during four walking tasks: usual, fast, cognitive dual task and obstacle negotiation. Spatiotemporal parameters, dual-task cost and coefficients of variability (CV%) were measured by GaitRite® and were used to detect differences between groups. Balance performance was also assessed with Mini-BEST and Four Step Square tests. In CD participants, correlation analysis was computed between gait parameters and clinical data. Significant differences in complex gait and balance performance were found between groups. CD patients showed lower speed, longer stance time and higher CV% and dual-task cost compared to HS. In CD, altered gait parameters correlated with balance performance and were not associated with clinical features of CD. Our findings suggest that complex walking performance is impaired in patients with CD and that balance and gait deficits might be related.
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