Cognitive-motor interference during locomotion: quantifying cross-domain interference effects during pedestrian collision avoidance

Liam Christopher O'Reilly*, Chris Mills, Matt Dicks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Background and aim: Cognitive-motor interference during locomotion is well documented in a range of research fields including those relating to ageing and cognitive impairments. However, little is known about the cross-domain interference effects between performance of tasks in the cognitive and physical domains. The first aim of this investigation is to quantify the relative contributions of cognitive tasks and simulated physical impairments to altered overground walking performance. The second aim of this investigation is to quantify the cross-domain interference effects of concurrent cognitive tasks on pedestrian collision avoidance.

Methods: Two experiments were conducted utilising a repetitive shuttle walking task recorded by motion capture. In the first experiment, twenty-one healthy young adults (M = 25.5; SD = 2.3 years), performed a working memory task whilst walking overground with a simulated physical impairment to investigate the cross-domain interference effects in cognitive domain and the physical domain. In the second experiment, twenty-two healthy young adults aged 20-29 years (M = 25.2; SD = 2.5 years) performed the shuttle walking task again with and without the concurrent working memory task. In both conditions, a pedestrian collision avoidance task was added to investigate the interference effects of a dynamic environmental challenge.

Results: The first experiment found that the working memory task and the simulated physical impairment both influenced physical domain performance, reducing walking velocity by 20% and 18% respectively. A condition where the working memory task and simulated physical impairment were combined resulted in a 32% reduction in velocity. Cognitive domain performance remained resilient to crossdomain interference. The second experiment found similarly reduced walking velocities but also found that collision avoidance behaviours were altered by the working memory task. On average, participants performed collision avoidance manoeuvres in 4.73 out of five trials in when walking without the concurrent working memory task and this was reduced to an average of 4.27 out of five trials with the working memory task. Performance on the working memory task was reduced by the pedestrian collision avoidance, with correct responses in the working memory task reduced from 96% to 86% due to collision avoidance with the oncoming pedestrian and an 8% reduction in response rate.

Conclusions: This investigation finds that a working memory task and a simulated physical impairment had a similar impact upon walking performance and this effect was additive when conditions were combined. This investigation also finds the cognitive domain to be resilient to multitasking interference except during the pedestrian collision avoidance task where costs were also suffered in the cognitive domain.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2022
EventInternational Society of Posture and Gait Research - Montreal, Canada
Duration: 3 Jul 20227 Jul 2022


ConferenceInternational Society of Posture and Gait Research
Abbreviated titleISPGR
Internet address


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