Aging effects on prefrontal cortex oxygenation in a posture-cognition dual-task: an fNIRS pilot study


Background: The aging process alters upright posture and locomotion control from an automatically processed to a more cortically controlled one. The present study investigated a postural-cognitive dual-task paradigm in young and older adults using functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS). Methods: Twenty healthy participants (10 older adults 72 ± 3 y, 10 young adults 23 ± 3 y) performed a cognitive (serial subtractions) and a postural task (tandem stance) as single-tasks (ST) and concurrently as a dual-task (DT) while the oxygenation levels of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) were measured. Results: In the cognitive task, young adults performed better than older adults in both conditions (ST and DT) and could further increase the number of correct answers from ST to DT (all ps ≤ 0.027) while no change was found for older adults. No significant effects were found for the postural performance. Cerebral oxygenation values (O2Hb) increased significantly from baseline to the postural ST (p = 0.033), and from baseline to the DT (p = 0.031) whereas no changes were found in deoxygenated hemoglobin (HHb). Finally, the perceived exertion differed between all conditions (p ≤ 0.003) except for the postural ST and the DT (p = 0.204). Conclusions: There was a general lack of age-related changes except the better cognitive performance under motor-cognitive conditions in young compared to older adults. However, the current results point out that DLPFC is influenced more strongly by postural than cognitive load. Future studies should assess the different modalities of cognitive as well as postural load.

European Review of Aging and Physical Activity