Dual tasking during postural stepping responses increases falls but not freezing in people with Parkinson's disease

Jesse V. Jacobs, John G. Nutt, Patricia Carlson-Kuhta, Rebecca Allen, Fay B. Horak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Purpose: Although falls in people with Parkinson's disease (PD) associate with dual tasking and freezing of gait (FoG), it is not known whether falls during dual tasking are due to FoG. This study investigated the effects of a cognitive task on the occurrence of falls and FoG when subjects with PD step in response to a postural perturbation. Methods: Ten subjects with PD and a history of FoG as well as 10 age-matched subjects without PD stepped in response to large, backward displacements of the support surface, with and without performing a fluency task of listing items in a category. Subjects with PD performed the task in the "off" and "on" dopaminergic medication states. We recorded the percentage of trials with FoG (a lack of step in response to the perturbation), foot-lift latencies, and trials with falls into a safety harness. Results: Dual tasking significantly increased the incidence of falls in people with PD, but subjects without PD did not fall in any condition. Dual tasking did not significantly increase trials without steps or foot-lift latencies. Falls were often coincident with a lack of step (FoG) in the single-task condition, but the increased falls with dual tasking occurred on trials with steps. Levodopa tended to decrease FoG and falls with or without dual tasking. However, medication did not significantly alter the effects of dual tasking on FoG or falls. Conclusions: For people with PD and FoG, forward falls may not always be caused by FoG, particularly under attention-distracting conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)779-781
Number of pages3
JournalParkinsonism and Related Disorders
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Attention
  • Balance
  • Dual task
  • Falls
  • Freezing of gait
  • Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Clinical Neurology


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