Cognitive Workload During Dual-Task Walking

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Measuring the Cognitive Workload During Dual-Task Walking in Young Adults: A Combination of Neurophysiological and Subjective Measures.

Abstract
Background: Walking while performing a secondary task (dual-task (DT) walking) increases cognitive workload in young adults. To date, few studies have used neurophysiological measures in combination to subjective measures to assess cognitive workload during a walking task. This combined approach can provide more insights into the amount of cognitive resources in relation with the perceived mental effort involving in a walking task.

Research Question: The objective was to examine cognitive workload in young adults during walking conditions varying in complexity. Methods: Twenty-five young adults (mean = 24.4 ± 5.4) performed four conditions: (1) usual walking, (2) simple DT walking, (3) complex DT walking and (4) standing while subtracting. During the walking task, mean speed, cadence, stride time, stride length, and their respective coefficient of variation (CV) were recorded. Cognitive workload will be measured through changes in oxy- and deoxy-hemoglobin (ΔHbO2 and ΔHbR) during walking in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and perceived mental demand score from NASA-TLX questionnaire.

Results: In young adults, ΔHbO2 in the DLPFC increased from usual walking to both DT walking conditions and standing while subtracting condition. ΔHbO2 did not differ between the simple and complex DT and between the complex DT and standing while subtracting condition. Perceived mental demand gradually increased with walking task complexity. As expected, all mean values of gait parameters were altered according to task complexity. CV of speed, cadence and stride time were significantly higher during DT walking conditions than during usual walking whereas CV of stride length was only higher during complex DT walking than during usual walking.

Significance: Young adults had greater cognitive workload in the two DT walking conditions compared to usual walking. However, only the mental demand score from NASA-TLX questionnaire discriminated simple from complex DT walking. Subjective measure provides complementary information to objective one on changes in cognitive workload during challenging walking tasks in young adults. These results may be useful to improve our understanding of cognitive workload during walking.

PMID: 33328938 [PubMed]

Front Hum Neurosci. 2020;14:592532

Authors: Hoang I, Ranchet M, Derollepot R, Moreau F, Paire-Ficout L

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