Measuring effects of ageing on cortical activity during posture-cognitive multitasking using fNIRS and EEG
Populations around the world are ageing, with 29% of people expected to be over 65 by 2050. A key issue in ageing research is postural control and fall prevention, with falls costing the NHS £2.3 billion/year. In daily life, postural control is often performed in a multitask setting because, when we stand, we usually perform another task like talking or checking our phone. During posture-cognitive multitasking, young adults focus primarily on the cognitive task but older adults focus on posture to avoid falls (posture-first strategy). Even though a large number of studies have assessed age-differences in posture-cognitive interactions, little is known about the brain mechanisms involved. A recently developed technique, functional Near Infra-Red Spectroscopy (fNIRS) can be used to investigate brain activity in cortical areas involved in posture and cognition. This method, in combination with well-established electrophysiological techniques (ElectroEncephaloGraphy, EEG) can provide invaluable information about changes in cortical activity with task complexity and age in this task. Our project aims to assess age differences in brain activity using EEG and fNIRS in posture-cognitive dual-task performance in order to uncover brain-level differences in the way the two age-groups deal with multitasking, especially when postural instability increases. Our results will be valuable for the development of technologies contributing to fall prevention and enhanced quality of life for older adults.
Our project is based on the triple I dimension that is core to Marie Curie: It comprises an
interdisciplinary team with supervisors from Psychology (Dr Doumas), and Electrical Engineering (Dr Devereux), includes intersectoral exposure with the student doing a placement in the industrial sector with BrainWaveBank Ltd (Dr Murphy) which will help the student’s personal development. The project will facilitate international collaborations through visits to our collaborators’ laboratories (e.g. Dr Krampe, KU Leuven) and through working closely with BrainWaveBank’s Belfast and Dublin teams.