The Cognitive Demands of Gait Retraining in Runners: An EEG Study

J Mot Behav. 2020;52(3):360-371. doi: 10.1080/00222895.2019.1635983. Epub 2019 Jul 22.


High impact forces during running have been associated with tibial stress injuries. Previous research has demonstrated increasing step rate will decrease impact forces during running. However, no research has determined the cognitive demand of gait retraining. The primary purpose was to determine the cognitive demand and effectiveness of field-based gait retraining. We hypothesized that in-field gait retraining would alter running mechanics without increasing cognitive workload as measured by EEG following learning. Runners with a history of tibial injury completed a gait retraining protocol which included a baseline run, retraining phase, practice phase, and re-assessment following retraining protocol. Results demonstrated an increase in the theta, beta, and gamma power within prefrontal cortex during new learning and corresponding return to baseline following skill acquisition and changes across alpha, beta, gamma, mu, and theta in the motor cortex (p < .05). In the midline superior parietal cortex, spectral power was greater for theta activity during new learning with a corresponding alpha suppression. Overall, the results demonstrated the use of EEG as an effective tool to measure cognitive demand for implicit motor learning and the effectiveness of in-field gait retraining.

Keywords: cognitive load; gait; learning; mobile brain/body imaging (MoBI).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Running / injuries
  • Running / physiology*
  • Young Adult