Age-related effects of repeated task switching in a novel voluntary gait adaptability task

Kyungwan Kim*, Lena Deller, Marie Vinent, Wiebren Zijlstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Publication: Contribution to journalJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


Age-related effects of task switching have been extensively studied based on cognitive tasks and simple motor tasks, but less on complex cognitive-motor tasks involving dynamic balance control while walking. The latter tasks may especially be difficult and relevant for older adults in terms of safe mobility in daily life. The aim of the present study was, therefore, to examine age-related changes in task-switching adaptability using a novel voluntary gait adaptability test protocol. Fifteen healthy young (27.5 ± 2.9 years) and 16 healthy old (70.9 ± 7.6 years) adults carried out 2 different visual target stepping tasks (either target avoidance or stepping) twice in a block (A–B–A–B, 2 min per task; three blocks in total) without any intrablock breaks. Our results showed that old adults showed significantly more step errors both in Tasks A and B as well as more interference effects than young adults. Age-related differences in step accuracy were significant in the anterior–posterior direction both in Task A and B but not in the mediolateral direction. Both in step errors and accuracy, no interaction effects of age and trial were shown. Our results suggest that old adults could not cope with rapid and direct task changes in our voluntary gait adaptability task as young adults. Since the significant main effect of trial for Task B, but not Task A appears to be due to different task complexity, further studies may determine the effect of task complexity or task switch timing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalExperimental brain research
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 26.04.2023


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