Effects of cognitive inhibition preceding voluntary step responses to visual stimuli in young and older adults

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Objectives: Age-related changes in executive functions, especially inhibitory control, correlate to decreased balance control and increased fall risk. However, only few studies focused on performance of tasks integrating balance and inhibitory control. This study aims to determine the effects of cognitive inhibition preceding the initiation of voluntary steps in young and older adults.; Methods: Performance of three stepping tasks (a Simon-, Flanker-, and a combined Simon-Flanker task (SFT)) were analyzed in 23 young adults and 43 older adults. Each task included congruent and incongruent trials in different step directions. Analyses focused on temporal aspects of step responses as identified by changes in Center of Pressure (CoP) and foot position. A three-way repeated measures ANOVA was used to evaluate 'inhibition', 'age', and 'task' effects.; Results: With large effect sizes, 'inhibition' as well as 'age' resulted in longer durations of an initial preparatory phase as well as the step response phase. The SFT showed the largest 'task' effects. Duration of CoP movement had the largest impact on total step execution in older adults. A significant interaction effect of 'age*inhibition' was found on duration of CoP movement, but not on CoP onset.; Discussion: Overall, our results demonstrate that cognitive inhibition has more impact in older adults, the longer duration of CoP movements in older adults may reflect an ineffective step preparation. Our examination of the duration of subsequent phases which comprise perceptual processing and conflict resolution, response initiation, and step execution sheds light on how cognitive inhibition affects voluntary stepping behavior in young and older adults. (© The Author(s) 2024. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: [email protected].)
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 01.02.2024