Open Access Open Badges Study protocol

Training dual-task walking in community-dwelling adults within 1 year of stroke: a protocol for a single-blind randomized controlled trial

Prudence Plummer-D’Amato1*, Anastasia Kyvelidou2, Dagmar Sternad3, Bijan Najafi45, Raymond M Villalobos6 and David Zurakowski78

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physical Therapy, Northeastern University, 360 Huntington Ave, 6 Robinson Hall, Boston, MA, USA

2 Department of Biology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, 02115, USA

3 Departments of Biology, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Physics, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, 02115, USA

4 Department of Surgery, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, 85724, USA

5 Arizona Center on Aging, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, 85724, USA

6 New England Rehabilitation Hospital, Woburn, MA, 01801, USA

7 Departments of Anesthesia and Surgery, Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA, 02115, USA

8 Departments of Anesthesia and Biostatistics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 02115, USA

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BMC Neurology 2012, 12:129  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-12-129

Published: 31 October 2012



Community ambulation is a highly complex skill requiring the ability to adapt to increased environmental complexity and perform multiple tasks simultaneously. After stroke, individuals demonstrate a diminished ability to perform dual-tasks. Current evidence suggests that conventional rehabilitation does not adequately address gait-related dual-task impairments after stroke, which may be contributing to low levels of participation and physical inactivity in community-dwelling stroke survivors. The objective of this study is to investigate the efficacy of dual-task gait training in community-dwelling adults within 1 year of stroke. Specifically, we will compare the effects of dual-task gait training and single-task gait training on cognitive-motor interference during walking at preferred speed and at fastest comfortable speed (Aim 1), locomotor control during obstacle negotiation (Aim 2), and spontaneous physical activity (Aim 3).


This single-blind randomized controlled trial will involve 44 individuals within 12 months of stroke. Following baseline evaluation, participants will be randomly allocated to single- or dual-task gait training. Both groups will receive 12, 30-minute sessions provided one-on-one over 4–6 weeks in an outpatient therapy setting. Single-task gait training involves practice of gait activities incorporating motor relearning principles. Dual-task gait training involves an identical gait training protocol; the critical difference being that the dual-task gait training group will practice the gait activities while simultaneously performing a cognitive task for 75% of the repetitions. Blinded assessors will measure outcomes at baseline, post-intervention, and 6 months after completion of the intervention. The primary outcome measure will be dual-task effects on gait speed and cognition during unobstructed walking. Secondary outcomes include spatiotemporal and kinetic gait parameters during unobstructed single- and dual-task walking at preferred and fastest comfortable walking speeds, gait parameters during high and low obstacle crossing, spontaneous physical activity, executive function, lower extremity motor function, Timed Up and Go, balance self-efficacy, number of falls, and stroke-related disability. Hypotheses for each aim will be tested using an intention-to-treat analysis with repeated measures ANOVA design.


This trial will provide evidence to help clinicians make decisions about the types of activities to include in rehabilitation to improve dual-task walking after stroke.

Trial registration NCT01568957

Stroke; Gait; Dual-task; Attention; Cognition; Rehabilitation; Obstacle avoidance; Participation; Physical therapy