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3. MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES
While navigating complex environments the brain must continuously adapt to both external demands such as fluctuating sensory inputs, as well as internal demands, such as engagement in a cognitively demanding task. Previous studies have demonstrated changes in behavior and gait with increased sensory and cognitive load, but the underlying cortical mechanisms remain largely unknown. Here, in a Mobile Brain/Body Imaging (MoBI) approach sixteen young adults walked on a treadmill with high-density EEG while 3D motion capture tracked kinematics of the head and feet. Visual load was manipulated with the presentation of optic flow with and without continuous mediolateral perturbations. The effects of cognitive load were assessed by the performance of a Go/No-Go task on half of the blocks. During increased sensory load, participants walked with shorter and wider strides, which may indicate a more restrained pattern of gait. Interestingly, cognitive task engagement attenuated these effects of sensory load on gait. Using an Independent Component Analysis and dipole-fitting approach, we found that cautious gait was accompanied by neuro-oscillatory modulations localized to frontal (supplementary motor area, anterior cingulate cortex) and parietal (inferior parietal lobule, precuneus) areas. Our results show suppression in alpha/mu (8-12Hz) and beta (13-30Hz) rhythms, suggesting enhanced activation of these regions with unreliable sensory inputs. These findings provide insight into the neural correlates of gait adaptation, and may be particularly relevant to older adults who are less able to adjust to ongoing cognitive and sensory demands while walking.
Malcolm, B., Foxe, J. & Butler, J. (2018).