The brain’s prefrontal cortex not only manages cognition—our ability to think—but influences walking as well. In a study published online on August 13 in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, Roee Holtzer, Ph.D., and colleagues showed for the first time that training adults 65 and older to execute cognitive tasks while walking improves prefrontal cortex activation efficiency. Participants walked under two conditions: walking without doing a cognitive task (Single-task-walk) and walking while performing a cognitive task (Dual-task-walk). During both walking conditions, neural activity in the prefrontal cortex was measured using functional-Near-Infrared Spectroscopy. The researchers found that after just one session dual-task walking performance improved and was coupled with enhanced activation efficiency in the prefrontal cortex. In contrast, performance and neural activity associated with single task walking—which is more automatic and less dependent on the prefrontal cortex—did not change after practice. The findings show that aging brains can be made sharper relatively quickly, which may help in reducing falls and other adverse outcomes among older adults. Dr. Holtzer is a professor in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology at Einstein.
Posted on: Friday, September 28, 2018