Prefrontal cortex activation during dual-task walking in older adults is moderated by thickness of several cortical regions

Daliah Ross, Mark E. Wagshul, Meltem Izzetoglu, Roee Holtzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Dual tasking, a defined facet of executive control processes, is subserved, in part, by the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Previous functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) studies revealed elevated PFC oxygenated hemoglobin (HbO2) under Dual-Task-Walk (DTW) compared to Single-Task Walk (STW) conditions. Based on the concept of neural inefficiency (i.e., greater activation coupled with similar or worse performance), we hypothesized that decreased cortical thickness across multiple brain regions would be associated with greater HbO2 increases from STW to DTW. Participants were 55 healthy community-dwelling older adults, whose cortical thickness was measured via MRI. HbO2 levels in the PFC, measured via fNIRS, were assessed during active walking under STW and DTW conditions. Statistical analyses were adjusted for demographics and behavioral performance. Linear mixed-effects models revealed that the increase in HbO2 from STW to DTW was moderated by cortical thickness in several regions. Specifically, thinner cortex in specific regions of the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes, cingulate cortex, and insula was associated with greater increases in HbO2 levels from single to dual-task walking. In conclusion, participants with thinner cortex in regions implicated in higher order control of walking employed greater neural resources, as measured by increased HbO2, in the PFC during DTW, without demonstrating benefits to behavioral performance. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine cortical thickness as a marker of neural inefficiency during active walking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1959-1974
Number of pages16
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Cortical thickness
  • Dual task
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • veterinary (miscalleneous)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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