Gait Performance is not Influenced by Working Memory When Walking at a Self-selected Pace

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Christopher K. Rhea, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Gait performance exhibits patterns within the stride-to-stride variability that can be indexed using detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA). Previous work employing DFA has shown that gait patterns can be influenced by constraints, such as natural aging or disease, and they are informative regarding a person’s functional ability. Many activities of daily living require concurrent performance in the cognitive and gait domains; specifically working memory is commonly engaged while walking, which is considered dual-tasking. It is unknown if taxing working memory while walking influences gait performance as assessed by DFA. This study used a dual-tasking paradigm to determine if performance decrements are observed in gait or working memory when performed concurrently. Healthy young participants (N = 16) performed a working memory task (automated operation span task) and a gait task (walking at a self-selected speed on a treadmill) in single- and dual-task conditions. A second dual-task condition (reading while walking) was included to control for visual attention, but also introduced a task that taxed working memory over the long term. All trials involving gait lasted at least 10 min. Performance in the working memory task was indexed using five dependent variables (absolute score, partial score, speed error, accuracy error, and math error), while gait performance was indexed by quantifying the mean, standard deviation, and DFA a of the stride interval time series. Two multivariate analyses of variance (one for gait and one for working memory) were used to examine performance in the single- and dual-task conditions. No differences were observed in any of the gait or working memory dependent variables as a function of task condition. The results suggest the locomotor system is adaptive enough to complete a working memory task without compromising gait performance when walking at a self-selected pace.

Additional Information

Experimental Brain Research, 232(2), 515-525
Language: English
Date: 2014
Dual-tasking, Gait, Working memory, Variability

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