For some, walking “increases” brain function

Summary: For some, cognitive performance on tasks improves as they go through changes in the use of neural resources.

A source: University of Rochester

For a long time, it was thought that walking combined with work would hurt both. Researchers at the Del Monte Institute of Neurology at the University of Rochester have found that this is not always the case.

Some young and healthy people improve the performance of cognitive functions during walking by changing the use of neural resources.

However, this does not necessarily mean that you have to work on a big task while leaving the cake in the evening.

“Before we tested them, it was impossible to predict who would fall into which category, but at first we thought everyone would answer the same way,” said Elena Patelaki, a candidate of biomedical engineering. Frederick J. and Marion A. Schindler is a student at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in the Laboratory of Cognitive Neurophysiology and the first author of the study. The cerebral cortex.

“For some subjects, it was surprising that it was easier to do two tasks than to do one task separately than to do one task separately. It was interesting and unexpected, because most of the research in this area has shown that the more tasks we do at a time, the lower our performance will be.

Improvement means changes in the brain

Using the Mobile Brain / Body Imaging System, or MoBI, the researchers tracked the activity, kinematics, and behavior of 26 healthy people between the ages of 18 and 30 while sitting or walking in a chair. The way to run. Participants were asked to press a button each time the picture changed. If the same picture appeared, participants were asked not to leave.

The performance of each participant in this task while sitting was considered to be the “baseline” of their individual behavior. When pressure was added to the same task, investigators found that different behaviors occurred, with some people performing worse than expected from the initial level of sitting based on previous research, and some improving relative to the sitting position.

Electroencephalogram or EEG data showed changes in the frontal function of the brain in 14 participants who improved the task during pressing, which was absent in 12 participants who did not improve. This change in brain activity, as shown by those who improved the task, increased the flexibility or efficiency of the brain.

“To the naked eye, there were no differences between our participants. It was only when we began to analyze their behavior and brain activity that we found a striking difference in the group’s neural signatures and what led them to solve complex dual task processes differently, ”Patelaki said.

Some young and healthy people improve the performance of cognitive functions during walking by changing the use of neural resources. Image in public domain

“It has the potential to expand the findings and translate them into populations that know that the flexibility of neural resources is impaired.”

Edward Friedman, Ph.D., an associate professor of neurology at the Del Monte Institute, led the study, which continues to expand how MoBI helps neurologists discover how the brain works when it performs multiple tasks. His previous work emphasized the flexibility of a healthy brain, and the neurophysiological difference between walking and sitting showed that the task was more difficult.

“These new findings highlight how MoBI can show how the brain responds to pressure and how the brain responds to a task,” Friedman said.

“It allows us to study the brains of older people, especially healthy people.”

Disseminating this study to the elderly will help scientists identify a possible marker for “super-elderly” or people with minimal cognitive impairment. This marker helps to better understand what can be severe in neurodegenerative diseases.

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Learn about this research news

Author: Press service
A source: University of Rochester
The connection: Press Service – University of Rochester
Photo: Image in public domain

Original study: Open access.
Eleni Patelaki The cerebral cortex


Young adults who are more effective during double-tasking demonstrate flexible distribution of cognitive resources: mobile brain-body imaging (MoBI) study

Wrap up

In young people, pairing cognitive tasks with pressing can have different effects on walking and cognitive performance. In some cases, productivity is clearly reduced, while in others, compensation mechanisms maintain productivity. This study predicts that the Go / NoGo response during walking was predicted to improve behavioral performance compared to sitting observed in the pilot phase.

Materials and methods

Mobile brain / body imaging (MoBI) was used to record electroencephalographic (EEG) activity, 3D walking kinematics, and behavioral responses to cognitive tasks while sitting or walking on a treadmill.


Cognitive performance improved when walking in a cohort of 26 young adults compared to 14 participants. These participants showed a decrease in EEG amplitude in the frontal scalp associated with suppression during the main stages of inhibitory control (conflict monitoring, management and pre-motor stages), with a faster response to stimuli and a decrease in step variability. who has not improved. However, 12 participants who did not improve showed a difference in EEG amplitude over physical condition.


Changes in neuronal activity associated with improved performance in dual tasks promise as markers of cognitive flexibility that can help assess cognitive decline in aging and neurodegeneration.

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