Backward Protective Stepping During Dual-Task Scenarios in People With Parkinson’s Disease: A Pilot Study

Daniel S. Peterson, Jordan S. Barajas, Linda Denney, Shyamal H. Mehta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction. Reactive movements in response to a loss of balance are altered in people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and are critical for fall prevention. Further, falls are more common while attention is divided. Although divided attention has been shown to impact postural responses in healthy older adults, the impact of dividing attention on reactive balance, and the natural prioritization across postural and cognitive tasks in people with PD is largely unknown. Objectives. To characterize (1) the impact of a secondary cognitive task on reactive postural control and (2) the prioritization across stepping and cognitive tasks in people with PD. Methods. Sixteen people with PD and 14 age-matched controls underwent step-inducing, support-surface perturbations from stance, with and without an auditory Stroop secondary cognitive task. Cognitive, neuromuscular, and protective stepping performance were calculated for single and dual task scenarios. Results. In PD and control participants, cognitive reaction times (P =.001) and muscle onset latency (P =.007), but not protective step outcomes (P >.12 for all) were worse during dual tasking compared with single-task scenarios. Both PD and control groups prioritized the protective stepping task over the cognitive task. Overall, people with PD exhibited worse first-step margin of stability (a measure of protective step performance) than controls (P =.044). Conclusion. This study provides preliminary evidence that people with PD, like age-matched controls, exhibit cognitive and neuromuscular, but not protective step, dual-task interference. The lack of dual-task interference on step performance indicates a postural prioritization for PD and healthy older adults during dual-task protective stepping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)702-710
Number of pages9
JournalNeurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Parkinson’s disease
  • automatic postural responses
  • dual tasking
  • falls
  • protective stepping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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