Over 400,000 Canadians live with long-term disability from stroke. Stroke survivors say regaining walking ability is a top priority; but, poor cognition, or thinking abilities, can limit walking in the community. How much walking recovery someone achieves likely stems from the brain's ability to dual-task (DT), like walking while talking. In fact, almost 80% of stroke survivors struggle with some aspect of cognition limiting full walking recovery after stroke. The complex demands of community mobility after stroke can be studied in laboratory settings using DT, where walking is done with a cognitive task.
Using DT, studies have found the brain is crucial for DT, and that altered levels of brain activity affect DT ability. But, little research probes if stroke survivors could produce brain recovery with DT training, as neuroimaging methods like functional MRI, cannot collect data during standing and walking. Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is an ideal imaging tool to assess walking without physical limits, but its utility to detect if DT training can drive the brain to recover walking has not been tested in stroke survivors. So, the goal of our clinical trial is to test if DT training can help the brain recover and allow for better DT ability. DT training may drive brain recovery by addressing cognitive and motor difficulties at the same time, maximizing rehabilitation efforts, and improve walking ability in the community after stroke.