BACKGROUND: When performing two tasks at once, a dual task, performance on one or both tasks typically suffers. People with Parkinson's disease (PD) usually experience larger dual task decrements on motor tasks than healthy older adults (HOA). Our objective was to investigate the decrements in cycling caused by performing cognitive tasks with a range of difficulty in people with PD and HOAs.
METHODS: Twenty-eight participants with Parkinson's disease and 20 healthy older adults completed a baseline cycling task with no secondary tasks and then completed dual task cycling while performing 12 tasks from six cognitive domains representing a wide range of difficulty.
RESULTS: Cycling was faster during dual task conditions than at baseline, and was significantly faster for six tasks (all p
CONCLUSIONS: Unexpectedly, participants' motor performance improved during cognitive dual tasks, which cannot be explained in current models of dual task performance. To account for these findings, we propose a model integrating dual task and acute exercise approaches which posits that cognitive arousal during dual tasks increases resources to facilitate motor and cognitive performance, which is subsequently modulated by motor and cognitive task difficulty. This model can explain both the improvement observed on dual tasks in the current study and more typical dual task findings in other studies.
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