Talking while walking: Cognitive loading and injurious falls in Parkinson's disease

Leonard L. Lapointe, Julie A.G. Stierwalt, Charles G. Maitland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Multitasking has become a way of life, from operating multiple software packages simultaneously on a computer, to carrying on a conversation on a cell phone while driving. Perhaps one of the most common dual tasks performed is talking while walking. In isolation, neither task would be considered difficult to perform, yet when coupled, the relative ease of each task may change. This paper details significant problems that result from injurious falls, and points out the vulnerability of those who have been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. In addition, it provides an illustrative study that demonstrates the potential danger of talking while walking, especially when the cognitive-linguistic complexity of verbal tasks is manipulated. In this investigation, 25 participants with Parkinson's disease and 13 participants without neurological compromise completed gait tasks while conducting tasks of low (counting by ones), middle (serial subtraction of threes), and high load (alpha-numeric sequencing). The results indicated that cognitive-linguistic demand had an impact on gait, the effects of which were demonstrated in individuals without neurological compromise as well as those with Parkinson's disease. One finding, altered double-support time, distinguished the Parkinson group from the control participants. These results suggest that it might be prudent for healthcare professionals and caregivers to alter expectations and monitor the cognitive-linguistic demands placed on elderly individuals, particularly those with neurological compromise who might be at greater risk for injurious falls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-459
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Parkinson's disease
  • cognitive load
  • injurious falls

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Research and Theory
  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • LPN and LVN
  • Speech and Hearing


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