Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is associated with demyelination of the central nervous system that negatively impacts both motor and cognitive function, resulting in difficulty performing simultaneous motor and cognitive tasks, or dual-tasks. Declines in dual-tasking have been linked with falls in MS; thus, dual-task assessment with the Walking While Talking Test (WWTT) is commonly utilized in the clinical setting. However, the validity and minimal detectable change (MDC) of the WWTT has not been established for persons with MS. The primary objective of the study was to establish the WWTT as a valid measure of dual-task function by examining concurrent validity with other motor, cognitive and dual-task measures, and to establish the MDC for both the simple and complex conditions of the WWTT.
In a single visit, 38 adults (34 female, mean (SD) age 49.8(±9.1), Patient Determined Disease Steps (PDDS) mean 3, range 1-6) completed the WWTT simple (walk while reciting the alphabet) and complex (walk while reciting every other letter of the alphabet) conditions as well as a battery of cognitive and motor tests. Spearman correlations were used to examine concurrent validity. The sample was divided into low and high disability groups to determine the impact of disability severity on relationships among WWTT and cognitive and motor function.
Excellent concurrent validity (r ≥ 0.79; p < 0.001) was observed for the WWTT simple and complex with both motor (Timed Up-and-Go, Timed 25-Foot Walk, forward and backward walking velocity, Six-Spot Step Test) and dual-task measures (Timed Up-and-Go Cognitive). The WWTT-simple demonstrated moderate concurrent validity with measures of processing speed (Symbol Digit Modalities Test, p = 0.041) and was related to all motor and dual-task measures across disability levels. The WWTT complex was only related to complex motor tasks in the low disability group. Within the low disability group, WWTT was associated with processing speed (p = 0.045) and working memory (California Verbal Learning Test, p = 0.012). The MDC values were established for WWTT simple (6.9 s) and complex (8 s) conditions.
The WWTT is a quick, easy-to-administer clinical measure that captures both motor and cognitive aspects of performance for persons with MS. Clinicians should consider adding the WWTT to the evaluation of persons with MS to examine dual-task performance.

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