Behavioral and neural correlates of imagined walking and walking-while-talking in the elderly

Helena M. Blumen, Roee Holtzer, Lucy L. Brown, Yunglin Gazes, Joe Verghese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Cognition is important for locomotion and gait decline increases the risk for morbidity, mortality, cognitive decline, and dementia. Yet, the neural correlates of gait are not well established, because most neuroimaging methods cannot image the brain during locomotion. Imagined gait protocols overcome this limitation. This study examined the behavioral and neural correlates of a new imagined gait protocol that involved imagined walking (iW), imagined talking (iT), and imagined walking-while-talking (iWWT). In Experiment 1, 82 cognitively-healthy older adults (M=80.45) walked (W), iW, walked while talking (WWT) and iWWT. Real and imagined walking task times were strongly correlated, particularly real and imagined dual-task times (WWT and iWWT). In Experiment 2, 33 cognitively-healthy older adults (M=73.03) iW, iT, and iWWT during functional magnetic resonance imaging. A multivariate Ordinal Trend (OrT) Covariance analysis identified a pattern of brain regions that: (1) varied as a function of imagery task difficulty (iW, iT and iWWT), (2) involved cerebellar, precuneus, supplementary motor and other prefrontal regions, and (3) were associated with kinesthetic imagery ratings and behavioral performance during actual WWT. This is the first study to compare the behavioral and neural correlates of imagined gait in single and dual-task situations, an issue that is particularly relevant to elderly populations. These initial findings encourage further research and development of this imagined gait protocol as a tool for improving gait and cognition among the elderly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4090-4104
Number of pages15
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Dual-task
  • FMRI and aging
  • Gait
  • Imagery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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