Background: Executive functions (EFs) are neurocognitive processes planning and regulating daily life actions. Performance of two simultaneous tasks, requiring the same cognitive resources, lead to a cognitive fatigue. Several studies investigated cognitive-motor task and the interference during walking, highlighting an increasing risk of falls especially in elderly and people with neurological diseases. A few studies instrumentally explored relationship between activation-no-activation of two EFs (working memory and inhibition) and spatial-temporal gait parameters. Aim of our study was to detect activation of inhibition and working memory during progressive difficulty levels of cognitive tasks and spontaneous walking using, respectively, wireless electroencephalography (EEG) and 3D-gait analysis. Methods: Thirteen healthy subjects were recruited. Two cognitive tasks were performed, activating inhibition (Go-NoGo) and working memory (N-back). EEG features (absolute and relative power in different bands) and kinematic parameters (7 spatial-temporal ones and Gait Variable Score for 9 range of motion of lower limbs) were analyzed. Results: A significant decrease of stride length and an increase of external-rotation of foot progression were found during dual task with Go-NoGo. Moreover, a significant correlation was found between the relative power in the delta band at channels Fz, C4 and progressive difficulty levels of Go-NoGo (activating inhibition) during walking, whereas working memory showed no correlation. Conclusions: This study reinforces the hypothesis of the prevalent involvement of inhibition with respect to working memory during dual task walking and reveals specific kinematic adaptations. The foundations for EEG-based monitoring of cognitive processes involved in gait are laid. Clinical and Translational Impact Statement: Clinical and instrumental evaluation and training of executive functions (as inhibition), during cognitive-motor task, could be useful for rehabilitation treatment of gait disorder in elderly and people with neurological disease.
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