Journal of Neural Transmission | 2019
The attentional cost of movement in multiple sclerosis
Individuals living with multiple sclerosis frequently have impairments in mobility. These impairments are more pronounced when they engage in a cognitively demanding mobility tasks (i.e., walking and talking, obstacle clearance, etc). Based in part on the attentional capacity model of movement, these impairments are suggested to result from greater attentional demands. Yet, this model has not been directly tested in neurological populations. The objective of the study was to determine whether individuals with multiple sclerosis have greater attentional cost of movement across a range of tasks. This study tested probe reaction times of 20 individuals with multiple sclerosis and 26 healthy controls in five different movement tasks. The tasks were specifically chosen to challenge the perceptual–motor system based on variations in static and dynamic balance requirements. Participants were asked to verbally respond as quickly as possible to randomly presented audio probes during motor performance. Task order was randomized, and average probe reaction time was calculated for each task. The results showed tasks requiring dynamic stability had greater probe reaction times in both healthy controls and individuals with multiple sclerosis. Furthermore, individuals with multiple sclerosis had longer probe reaction times across all tasks compared to healthy controls. Yet, there was no relationship between probe reaction times and performance during a complex walking scenario. The results indicate the attentional capacity model may be inadequate to explain cognitive–motor interaction in people with multiple sclerosis. Future studies should address the theoretical framework of cognitive–motor interaction, which may influence the design of interventions aimed at improving performance in individuals with MS.