We did this study to see if people were able to stop in a designated area when prompted while doing another task besides just walking. For example, we had people walk while reciting every other letter of the alphabet and asked them to stop at a specific, marked point.
The reason we did this was to see if multitasking could cause hazardous problems for people, especially those with multiple sclerosis (MS). If you were walking on a side walk talking to your friends and you didn’t stop at the intersection, you could potentially be put in danger of being hit by a car.
We studied 30 people with MS and 30 older adults and had them only walk, and then walk while doing a mental task. This is an example of one participant’s foot placement:
- Figure A is only walking and figure B is walking and talking
Here are some results we found:
- MS Group: 8% failed to stop when only walking and 60% failed to stop while walking and talking.
- Older Adult Group: 3.3% failed to stop when only walking and 50% failed to stop while walking and talking.
There is very limited knowledge about people living with MS and their abilities to start and stop at a target as this study is the first to look at people stopping while doing two things at once. However, with this study’s results, it is very clear that walking and talking significantly decreases a person’s ability to stop in a specified zone.
With these findings, we hope to be able to help target falls risks for older adults and people with neurological impairments.
If you’re interested, please read the published paper by clicking here.