Open Access Research

Dual-task motor performance with a tongue-operated assistive technology compared with hand operations

Ashley N Johnson1, Xueliang Huo1, Maysam Ghovanloo1 and Minoru Shinohara23*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA

2 School of Applied Physiology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA

3 Rehabilitation R&D Center of Excellence, Atlanta VA Medical Center, Decatur, GA, USA

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Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation 2012, 9:1  doi:10.1186/1743-0003-9-1

Published: 13 January 2012



To provide an alternative motor modality for control, navigation, and communication in individuals suffering from impairment or disability in hand functions, a Tongue Drive System (TDS) has been developed that allows for real time tracking of tongue motion in an unobtrusive, wireless, and wearable device that utilizes the magnetic field generated by a miniature disk shaped magnetic tracer attached to the tip of the tongue. The purpose of the study was to compare the influence of a concurrent motor or cognitive task on various aspects of simple movement control between hand and tongue using the TDS technology.


Thirteen young able-bodied adults performed rapid and slow goal-directed movements of hand and tongue (with TDS) with and without a concurrent motor (hand or tongue) or cognitive (arithmetic and memory) task. Changes in reaction time, completion time, speed, correctness, accuracy, variability of displacement, and variability of time due to the addition of a concurrent task were compared between hand and tongue.


The influence of an additional concurrent task on motor performance was similar between the hand and tongue for slow movement in controlling their displacement. In rapid movement with a concurrent motor task, most aspects of motor performance were degraded in hand, while tongue speed during rapid continuous task was maintained. With a concurrent cognitive task, most aspects of motor performance were degraded in tongue, while hand accuracy during the rapid discrete task and hand speed during the rapid continuous task were maintained.


Rapid goal-directed hand and tongue movements were more consistently susceptible to interference from concurrent motor and cognitive tasks, respectively, compared with the other movement.

dual task; assistive device; motor control; finger