Background: There is growing evidence of the involvement of executive control in the maintenance of balance in old age. We examined whether healthy older adults who completed five sessions of nonmotor cognitive dual-task training would show significant improvements on measures of dual-task standing balance and mobility, compared with an untrained control group.
Methods: Twenty healthy older adults were assigned to either training or control groups. In the pre- and post-training sessions, all participants performed tests of cognition, balance, and mobility (single-support balance, dynamic posturography, sit-to-stand, 40-foot walk) under single- and dual-task conditions. The training group completed five sessions of cognitive dual-task training spaced at least 2 days apart. The two tasks involved making two-choice decisions to visually presented stimuli. Participants completed multiple blocks of single-task (task A or B, blockwise) and mixed (A, B, or A + B) trials in each training session.
Results: The training group showed significant improvements in body sway during single-support balance and center of gravity alignment during double-support dynamic balance. The control group showed no appreciable improvements.
Conclusions: This study is the first to demonstrate training-related benefits to gross motor performance stemming from cognitive dual-task training. The results support the view that motor control in aging is influenced by executive control and have implications for theories of cognitive training and transfer.