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Reduced gait variability and enhanced brain activity in older adults with auditory cues: a functional near infra-red spectroscopy study

Lookup NU author(s): Rodrigo Vitorio, Dr Sam Stuart, Professor Lynn RochesterORCiD, Dr Lisa AlcockORCiD, Dr Annette PantallORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Sage, 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Background. Ageing is associated with declining mobility, which negatively impacts quality of life and incurs substantial economic costs. Techniques to maintain safe mobility in older adults are therefore essential. Rhythmic auditory cueing (RAC) can improve walking patterns in older adults. However, the neural correlates associated with RAC, how they are influenced by repeated exposure and their relationships with gait response, cognitive function and depressive symptoms are unclear. Objectives. This study aimed to investigate the effects of RAC during walking on cortical activation and the relationship between RAC-related cortical changes and cognitive function, depressive symptoms and gait response. Methods. Seventeen young adults and eighteen older adults walked on a motorised treadmill for 5-minutes (5 trials with alternating 30-second blocks of usual walking and RAC walking). Changes in oxygenated haemoglobin (HbO2) in the frontal cortex were recorded using functional near infra-red spectroscopy. Cognitive domains were assessed through validated tests. A triaxial accelerometer measured gait parameters. Results. Gait variability decreased and prefrontal HbO2 levels increased during cued walking relative to usual walking. Older adults showed greater HbO2 levels in multiple motor regions during cued walking although the response reduced with repeated exposure. In older adults, lower depression scores, higher cognitive functioning and reduced gait variability were linked with increased HbO2 levels during RAC walking. Conclusion. These findings suggest that walking improves with RAC in older adults and is achieved through increased activity in multiple cortical areas. The cortical response decline with repeated exposure indicates older adults’ ability to adapt to a new task.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Vitorio R, Stuart S, Gobbi LTB, Rochester L, Alcock L, Pantall A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair

Year: 2018

Volume: 32

Issue: 11

Pages: 976-987

Print publication date: 01/11/2018

Online publication date: 09/11/2018

Acceptance date: 13/09/2018

Date deposited: 26/09/2018

ISSN (print): 1545-9683

ISSN (electronic): 1552-6844

Publisher: Sage


DOI: 10.1177/1545968318805159


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Funder referenceFunder name
FAPESP 2016/22750-0