Lifespan changes in multi-tasking: concurrent walking and memory search in children, young, and older adults

Gait Posture. 2011 Mar;33(3):401-5. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2010.12.012. Epub 2011 Jan 19.


We investigated dual-task performance of cognitive (semantic fluency) and sensorimotor tasks (walking) in 120 children and adults from four age groups (9-year olds, M=9.52 years; 11-year olds, M=11.51 years; young adults, M=25.34 years; older adults, M=64.28 years; N=30 per group). Distances walked during 90 s and numbers of category exemplars generated in the semantic fluency task showed an inverted U-shape function with age. In line with general resource models proportional dual-task costs in walking also showed a U-shaped relation as a function of age with pronounced decrements in the youngest and oldest groups. Only 9-year olds showed significant costs in the cognitive task. Individual differences in single-task performance accounted for more than half of the variance in dual-task performance. Reliable age-related residual variance implicated additional factors particularly in children's developing multi-tasking performances.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology
  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychometrics
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Factors
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Walking / psychology
  • Young Adult