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Brain Res Bull. 2006 Apr 14;69(3):294-305. Epub 2006 Jan 20.

Dual-tasking postural control: aging and the effects of cognitive demand in conjunction with focus of attention.

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  • 1Center for Lifespan Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany.


Postural control in everyday life is generally accompanied by posture-unrelated cognitive activity. Thus, mild forms of dual-tasking postural control are the norm rather than the exception. Based on this consideration and available evidence, we propose and empirically examined, in young and old adults, a non-monotonic, U-shaped relation between the efficacy of postural control and concurrent cognitive demands that reflect opposing trends of the effects of attention focus and attentional resource competition. When instructed to perform an easy cognitive task that presumably shifted the focus of attention away from posture control, the center of body pressure (COP) excursions decreased both in young and older adults relative to a single-task baseline where the focus of attention was explicitly directed towards the postural control task itself. However, when performing more demanding cognitive tasks, older adults showed increased COP displacements, in line with the predicted U-shape function, whereas young adults did not. We outline mechanisms linking postural control to cognitive demand and suggest routes for future investigation.

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