While the large majority of us work sitting at a desk, we’ve all had those flashes of insight or a string of new ideas while running or on a walk. It’s probably too much to ask that people do their jobs running on a treadmill, but new research shows some have improved cognition while walking.
New research from the University of Rochester showed that some healthier, younger people performed better on cognitive tasks while walking instead of sitting.
Researchers used the Mobile Brain/Body Imaging system, or MoBI, to monitor the brain activity, kinematics, and behavior of 26 18-to-30-year-olds in good shape while they looked at a stream of images. The participants were either sitting in a chair or walking on a treadmill. Every time the picture changed, the participants were instructed to click a button. If the same image appeared twice in a row, then the participants were asked not to click.
Sitting performance was set as the participants’ “baseline.” When they were walking, some had worse improvement while others improved. 14 of the participants improved while 12 did not.
“To the naked eye, there were no differences in our participants. It wasn’t until we started analyzing their behavior and brain activity that we found the surprising difference in the group’s neural signature and what makes them handle complex dual-tasking processes differently,” said first author Eleni Patelaki, a biomedical engineering Ph.D. student at the University of Rochester. “These findings have the potential to be expanded and translated to populations where we know that flexibility of neural resources gets compromised.”
This research could give insight into how brains work under certain conditions and how those conditions might help them long term.
“These new findings highlight that the MoBI can show us how the brain responds to walking and how the brain responds to the task,” said Edward Freedman, associate professor of neuroscience at the Del Monte Institute. “This gives us a place to start looking in the brains of older adults, especially healthy ones.”
This research could help to identify factors that point toward “super-agers,” people who have a minimal decline in cognitive functions. This would be very helpful in identifying and helping people with neurodegenerative issues.
Source Study: Cerebral Cortex — Young adults who improve performance during dual-task walking show more flexible reallocation of cognitive resources: a mobile brain-body imaging (MoBI) study | Cerebral Cortex | Oxford Academic (oup.com)