Use of Motor Abundance in Young and Older Adults during Dual-Task Treadmill Walking


  • Decker Leslie M.
  • Cignetti Fabien
  • Potter Jane
  • Studenski Stephanie
  • Stergiou Nicholas

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Motor abundance allows individuals to perform any task reliably while being variable in movement's particulars. The study investigated age-related differences in this feature when young adults (YA) and older adults (OA) performed challenging tasks, namely treadmill walking alone and while performing a cognitive task. A goal function for treadmill walking was first defined, i.e., maintain constant speed at each step, which led to a goal equivalent manifold (GEM) containing all combinations of step time and step length that equally satisfied the function. Given the GEM, amounts of goal-equivalent and non-goal-equivalent variability were afterwards determined and used to define an index providing information about the set of effective motor solutions relative to the GEM. The set was limited in OA compared to YA in treadmill walking alone, indicating that OA made less flexible use of motor abundance than YA. However, this differentiation between YA and OA disappeared when concurrently performing the cognitive task. It is proposed that OA might have benefited from cognitive compensation.

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