The effects of cognitive load and optical flow on antagonist leg muscle coactivation during walking for young and older adults

Samuel A. Acuña, Carrie A. Francis, Jason Roy Franz, Darryl G. Thelen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to compare how healthy aging interacts with environments that challenge cognitive load and optical flow to affect antagonist leg muscle coactivation during walking. We measured leg muscle activity in sixteen older adults (70.4 ± 4.2 years) and twelve young adults (23.6 ± 3.9 years) walking on a treadmill at their preferred speed while watching a speed-matched virtual hallway. Cognitive load was challenged using a dual-task to interfere with available attentional resources. Optical flow was challenged using perturbations designed to create a perception of lateral imbalance. We found antagonist coactivation increased with aging, independent of condition. We also found that, compared to unperturbed walking, only in the presence of optical flow perturbations did the older adults increase their antagonist coactivation. Antagonist coactivation in the young adults was not affected by either condition. Our findings provide evidence that antagonist leg muscle coactivation in healthy older adults is more sensitive to walking environments that challenge optical flow than environments that challenge cognitive load. As increased antagonist coactivation may indicate compromised balance, these findings may be relevant in the design of living environments to reduce falls risk.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages8-14
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Electromyography and Kinesiology
Volume44
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

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Sensory Feedback
Gait
Walking
Young Adult
Leg
Muscles
Environment Design

Keywords

  • Aging
  • Dual task
  • EMG
  • Gait
  • Muscle coactivation
  • Visual feedback

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Biophysics
  • Clinical Neurology

Cite this

The effects of cognitive load and optical flow on antagonist leg muscle coactivation during walking for young and older adults. / Acuña, Samuel A.; Francis, Carrie A.; Franz, Jason Roy; Thelen, Darryl G.

In: Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, Vol. 44, 01.02.2019, p. 8-14.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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