Age-related differences in attentional cost associated with postural dual tasks: Increased recruitment of generic cognitive resources in older adults

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Dual-task designs have been used widely to study the degree of automatic and controlled processing involved in postural stability of young and older adults. However, several unexplained discrepancies in the results weaken this literature. To resolve this problem, a careful selection of dual-task studies that met certain methodological criteria are considered with respect to reported interactions of age (young vs. older adults) × task (single vs. dual task) in stable and unstable postural conditions. Our review shows that older adults are able to perform a postural dual task as well as younger adults in stable conditions. However, when the complexity of the postural task is increased by dynamic conditions (surface and surround), performance in postural, concurrent, or both tasks is more affected in older relative to young adults. In light of neuroimaging studies and new conceptual frameworks, these results demonstrate an age-related increase of controlled processing of standing associated with greater intermittent adjustments.

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