Appl Ergon. 2023 May;109:103986. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2023.103986. Epub 2023 Feb 6.
Interference between a walking task (target speeds on a self-paced treadmill) and dual visual and tactile-visual response time task was investigated. Ambulatory dual-task scenarios reveal how attention is divided between walking and additional tasks, but the impact of walking speed and dual-task modality on gait characteristics and dual-task performance is unclear. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of visual and tactile-visual dual-task on gait performance. Participants (n=15) targeted four speeds (0.5, 1.0, 1.3, and 1.5 m/s) on a self-paced treadmill with a visual speed indicator (a green region centered at the target speed). Participants completed the same speed profile on the treadmill without (Self-Paced) and with a response time dual task (Self-Paced with Dual Task) requiring finger-tap responses to go/no-go cues. Six gait characteristics were calculated: proportion of time in the desired speed green region (GTP), speed ratio (ratio of mean to target speed), time to green region after target speed change (NRT), normalized stride width (NSW), normalized stride length (NSL), and stride time (ST). Both stride length and width were normalized by participant leg length. Lower GTP and greater speed ratio at slower speeds during dual tasking indicate speed-dependent changes in gait characteristics. Changes in NSL and ST were more affected by speed than dual task. These findings support that when speed is a parameter that is tracked, participants do not universally decrease speed in the presence of a dual task. These findings can support the decisions made when designing new wearable technologies that support navigation, communication, and mobility.