Changes in Cortical Activation during Dual-Task Walking in Individuals with and without Visual Vertigo


Background and Purpose: Persons with vestibular disorders are known to have slower gait speed with greater imbalance and veering during dual-task walking than healthy individuals, but the cerebral mechanisms are unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine whether individuals with visual vertigo (VV) have different cerebral activation during dual-task walking compared with control subjects. Methods: Fourteen individuals with VV and 14 healthy controls (CON) were included (mean 39 years old, 85% women). A cross-sectional experimental study consisting of 4 combinations of 2 surfaces (even and uneven) and 2 task conditions (single- and dual-task) was performed. Participants walked over an even (level flooring) or uneven (wood prisms underneath carpeting) surface, either quietly or while reciting every other letter of the alphabet. Changes in cerebral activation over the bilateral prefrontal cortices were recorded using functional near-infrared spectroscopy during 4 task conditions relative to quiet standing. Gait speed and cognitive performance were recorded. Results: There were no between-group differences in cognitive performance. Both groups slowed when walking on an uneven surface or performing a dual-task; participants in the VV group walked more slowly than those in the CON group in all conditions. Participants with VV had decreased cerebral activation in the bilateral prefrontal regions in comparison to CON participants in all conditions. Discussion and Conclusions: Participants with VV had lower prefrontal cortex activation than CON participants during dual-task walking. Lower cortical activity in those with VV may be due to shifted attention away from the cognitive task to prioritize maintenance of dynamic balance. Video Abstract available for more insights from the authors (see the Video, Supplemental Digital Content 1, available at:

Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy