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Atten Percept Psychophys. 2015 Oct;77(7):2502-6. doi: 10.3758/s13414-015-0934-1.

Gait transition dynamics are modulated by concurrent cognitive activity.

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Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action, Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, 406 Babbidge Rd, Storrs, CT, 06269, USA.


In tasks with two categorically distinct behavioral possibilities a person beginning with one option will typically switch to the other at a higher value of a control parameter in an ascending (increasing) sequence than in a descending (decreasing) sequence. For example, the switch from walking to running on an accelerating treadmill occurs at a higher speed than the switch from running to walking on a decelerating treadmill. The reported research posed the question of whether this variant of behavioral hysteresis was affected by concurrent cognitive activity. Participants walked or ran on a treadmill with a constant acceleration or deceleration while counting backwards by sevens or ones, or not counting. The degree of hysteresis, the difference between walk-to-run and run-to-walk transition speeds, increased with cognitive difficulty. Specifically, the increased hysteresis was shown to be due to lower run-to-walk transition speeds for the more difficult concurrent cognitive tasks. These results support the hypothesis that cognitive load occupies attentional resources that contribute to triggering human gait transitions.


Dual-task methodology; Dynamical systems; Gait transition; Hysteresis

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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