Effects of a Dual Swallow-Attention Task on Swallow and Cognitive Performance Measures

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Research evidence has mounted that cognitive distracters can be detrimental to concurrent motor performance. Yet, few investigations have probed how cognitive distracters might impact dysphagia (swallowing impairment) though secondary tasks, like watching television, now compete with swallowing in a 21st-century lifestyle. Accordingly, we sought to determine whether cognitive distracters while swallowing alter swallowing or cognitive performance among healthy young adults. Participants were 30 healthy volunteers 18-24 years of age who underwent a baseline swallow task (BST), a baseline cognitive task (BCT), and a dual task (DT) in randomized order. The BST consisted of consuming 100 mL of (a) luke warm water (LWW) and (b) carbonated sweet water (CSW). The BCT involved pressing a key to indicate speed or reaction time for completing a number recognition task. In the DT condition, swallow and cognitive tasks were performed concurrently. Volume/swallow (V/S), time/swallow (T/S), and swallow capacity (SC) indices were derived for the swallow task and reaction time in milliseconds reflected cognitive task performance. On comparison between baseline and the DT condition, there was a decrease in V/S, increase in T/S, and an overall reduction in SC across LWW and CSW. Moreover, there was a slower cognitive reaction time in the DT condition. A significant repeated measures of ANOVA difference was noted between baseline and DT conditions (p < .001). We conclude that swallowing should not be done in the presence of cognitively distracters.

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