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Balancing the Demands of Two Tasks: An Investigation of Cognitive-Motor Dual-Tasking in Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.


People with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (PwRRMS) suffer disproportionate decrements in gait under dual-task conditions, when walking and a cognitive task are combined. There has been much less investigation of the impact of cognitive demands on balance.This study investigated whether: (1) PwRRMS show disproportionate decrements in postural stability under dual-task conditions compared to healthy controls, and (2) dual-task decrements are associated with everyday dual-tasking difficulties. The impact of mood, fatigue, and disease severity on dual-tasking was also examined.A total of 34 PwRRMS and 34 matched controls completed cognitive (digit span) and balance (movement of center of pressure on Biosway on stable and unstable surfaces) tasks under single- and dual-task conditions. Everyday dual-tasking was measured using the Dual-Tasking Questionnaire. Mood was measured by the Hospital Anxiety & Depression Scale. Fatigue was measured via the Modified Fatigue Index Scale.No differences in age, gender, years of education, estimated pre-morbid IQ, or baseline digit span between groups. Compared with controls, PwRRMS showed significantly greater decrement in postural stability under dual-task conditions on an unstable surface (p=.007), but not a stable surface (p=.679). Balance decrement scores were not correlated with everyday dual-tasking difficulties or fatigue. Stable surface balance decrement scores were significantly associated with levels of anxiety (rho=0.527; p=.001) and depression (rho=0.451; p=.007).RRMS causes dual-tasking difficulties, impacting balance under challenging conditions, which may contribute to increased risk of gait difficulties and falls. The relationship between anxiety/depression and dual-task decrement suggests that emotional factors may be contributing to dual-task difficulties. (JINS, 2017, 23, 1-12).