Modality-Specific, Multitask Locomotor Deficits Persist Despite Good Recovery After a Traumatic Brain Injury

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McFadyen BJ, Cantin J-F, Swaine B, Duchesneau G, Doyon J, Dumas D, Fait P. Modality-specific, multitask locomotor deficits persist despite good recovery after a traumatic brain injury. Objective: To study the effects of sensory modality of simultaneous tasks during walking with and without obstacles after moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Design: Group comparison study. Setting: Gait analysis laboratory within a postacute rehabilitation facility. Participants: Volunteer sample (N=18). Persons with moderate to severe TBI (n=11) (9 men, 3 women; age, 37.56±13.79y) and a comparison group (n=7) of subjects without neurologic problems matched on average for body mass index and age (4 men, 3 women; age, 39.19±17.35y). Interventions: Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures: Magnitudes and variability for walking speeds, foot clearance margins (ratio of foot clearance distance to obstacle height), and response reaction times (both direct and as a relative cost because of obstacle avoidance). Results: The TBI group had well-recovered walking speeds and a general ability to avoid obstacles. However, these subjects did show lower trail limb toe clearances (P=.003) across all conditions. Response reaction times to the Stroop tasks were longer in general for the TBI group (P=.017), and this group showed significant increases in response reaction times for the visual modality within the more challenging obstacle avoidance task that was not observed for control subjects. A measure of multitask costs related to differences in response reaction times between obstructed and unobstructed trials also only showed increased attention costs for the visual over the auditory stimuli for the TBI group (P=.002). Conclusions: Mobility is a complex construct, and the present results provide preliminary findings that, even after good locomotor recovery, subjects with moderate to severe TBI show residual locomotor deficits in multitasking. Furthermore, our results suggest that sensory modality is important, and greater multitask costs occur during sensory competition (ie, visual interference). © 2009 American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine.




McFadyen, B. J., Cantin, J. F., Swaine, B., Duchesneau, G., Doyon, J., Dumas, D., & Fait, P. (2009). Modality-Specific, Multitask Locomotor Deficits Persist Despite Good Recovery After a Traumatic Brain Injury. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 90(9), 1596–1606.

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