fNIRS study of walking and walking while talking in young and old individuals

Roee Holtzer, Jeannette R. Mahoney, Meltem Izzetoglu, Kurtulus Izzetoglu, Banu Onaral, Joe Verghese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

277 Scopus citations


Background. Evidence suggests that gait is influenced by higher order cognitive and cortical control mechanisms. However, less is known about the functional correlates of cortical control of gait. Methods. Using functional near-infrared spectroscopy, the current study was designed to evaluate whether increased activations in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) were detected in walking while talking (WWT) compared with normal pace walking (NW) in 11 young and 11 old participants. Specifically, the following two hypotheses were evaluated: (a) Activation in the PFC would be increased in WWT compared with NW. (b) The increase in activation in the PFC during WWT as compared with NW would be greater in young than in old participants. Results. Separate linear mixed effects models with age as the two-level between-subject factor, walking condition (NW vs WWT) as the two-level repeated within-subject factor, and HbO2 levels in each of the 16 functional near-infrared spectroscopy channels as the dependent measure revealed significant task effects in 14 channels, indicating a robust bilateral increased activation in the PFC in WWT compared with NW. Furthermore, the group-by-task interaction was significant in 11 channels with young participants showing greater WWT-related increase in HbO2 levels compared with the old participants. Conclusions. This study provided the first evidence that oxygenation levels are increased in the PFC during WWT compared with NW in young and old individuals. This effect was modified by age suggesting that older adults may underutilize the PFC in attention-demanding locomotion tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)879-887
Number of pages9
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Volume66 A
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Cognition
  • Gait
  • fNIRS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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