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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 8032180, 9 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/8032180
Research Article

Neural Correlates of Dual-Task Walking: Effects of Cognitive versus Motor Interference in Young Adults

1Research Focus Cognition Sciences, Division of Training and Movement Sciences, University of Potsdam, 14469 Potsdam, Germany
2Geriatric Center at the University of Heidelberg, Agaplesion Bethanien Hospital, 69126 Heidelberg, Germany
3Department of Sports Psychology, Institute of Sports Science, University of Mainz, 55122 Mainz, Germany
4Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology, University of Potsdam, 14469 Potsdam, Germany
5Department of Sports Science, Sport Psychology, University of Konstanz, 78464 Konstanz, Germany

Received 9 December 2015; Accepted 31 March 2016

Academic Editor: Terry McMorris

Copyright © 2016 Rainer Beurskens et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Walking while concurrently performing cognitive and/or motor interference tasks is the norm rather than the exception during everyday life and there is evidence from behavioral studies that it negatively affects human locomotion. However, there is hardly any information available regarding the underlying neural correlates of single- and dual-task walking. We had 12 young adults (23.8 ± 2.8 years) walk while concurrently performing a cognitive interference (CI) or a motor interference (MI) task. Simultaneously, neural activation in frontal, central, and parietal brain areas was registered using a mobile EEG system. Results showed that the MI task but not the CI task affected walking performance in terms of significantly decreased gait velocity and stride length and significantly increased stride time and tempo-spatial variability. Average activity in alpha and beta frequencies was significantly modulated during both CI and MI walking conditions in frontal and central brain regions, indicating an increased cognitive load during dual-task walking. Our results suggest that impaired motor performance during dual-task walking is mirrored in neural activation patterns of the brain. This finding is in line with established cognitive theories arguing that dual-task situations overstrain cognitive capabilities resulting in motor performance decrements.