Associations between executive function and physical function poststroke: a pilot study



Associations between executive function and physical function poststroke have not been extensively studied. More complex physiotherapy interventions poststroke require a greater degree of cognitive ability, especially executive function. This pilot study aimed to inform the methodology of a larger study by examining the associations between executive function and the performance of basic and complex gait tasks in people poststroke.


A cross-sectional pilot study was conducted in a convenience sample of 20 participants recruited from a community-based voluntary stroke organisation and from the outpatient services of two urban hospitals.

Main outcome measures

A battery of tests was used to measure executive function (Trail Making Test, Stroop Word-Colour Test, Zoo Map test, Frontal Assessment Battery and Digit Span backward test). Basic and complex 10metre gait tests were used to mimic aspects of physiotherapy intervention poststroke. Other measures included the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Motor Assessment Scale (MAS).


Observational comparisons between participant executive function scores and age- and/or education-matched normative data demonstrated that executive dysfunction ranged between 55% and 100%. Poorer performance in measures of executive function was more frequently associated with poorer performance in complex gait tests compared with basic gait tests. The MAS was not significantly associated with any measure of executive function.


Executive dysfunction is a common sequel poststroke which may negatively affect physical performance. Physiotherapists should consider executive dysfunction when developing rehabilitation strategies to improve physical function poststroke.


Associations between executive function and physical function poststroke: a pilot study.Physiotherapy - June 2013 (Vol. 99, Issue 2, Pages 165-171, DOI: 10.1016/ Hayes, Claire Donnellan, Emma Stokes