Stop walking when talking – a relationship between cognitive functions and gait control
1 Katedra Psychiatrii, Wydział Lekarski, Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Collegium Medicum w Krakowie, Polska
2 Nowa Rehabilitacja – Centrum Medyczno-Rehabilitacyjne Kraków-Południe, Polska
3 Akademia Wychowania Fizycznego im. Bronisława Czecha w Krakowie, Polska
4 Katedra Chorób Wewnętrznych i Gerontologii, Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Collegium Medicum w Krakowie, Polska
Adres do korespondencji: Anna Rajtar-Zembaty, Katedra Psychiatrii, Wydział Lekarski Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, ul. Mikołaja Kopernika 21 A, 31-501 Kraków, e-mail:
Aktualn Neurol 2015, 15 (1), p. 22–27
DOI: 10.15557/AN.2015.0004

Nowadays, more and more scientific reports highlight the importance of cognitive skills in motor control. It is believed that movement also engages higher mental processes such as executive functions, attention and working memory. Executive functions include cognitive processes, such as the ability to initiate, plan, modify and control behaviour. They play an integrative role in the processing of information, including both cognitive and behavioural elements, necessary for goal-directed and effective action. Executive functions play a key role in the regulation of gait in the case of taking new steps or modifying previously learned motor programmes. Neuroimaging studies show that there is a common pattern of neural activity for walking, executive functions and attention, involving the frontal cortex and cortico-subcortical neuronal network. Many studies have shown that the impairment of executive functions may contribute to gait disturbances and increased risk of falls. Executive functions allow movement patterns to be modified, and enable the introduction of adaptive compensatory strategies in response to changing internal and external environmental stimuli. Studies with dual-task paradigm also stress the importance of attention in maintaining the control over gait. The addition of a cognitive task slows gait in the elderly. The incidence of falls is higher in subjects with dementia. The identification of cognitive risk factors of falls may allow more effective diagnostic and therapeutic methods to be developed. The aim of this study was to elucidate the relationship between cognitive function, i.e. executive functions and attention, and the risk of falls.

Keywords: gait, executive functions, attention, working memory, fall risk