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Dual-Task Performance in Hearing-Impaired Older Adults—Study Protocol for a Cross-Sectional Mobile Brain/Body Imaging Study

Wunderlich, Anna; Vogel, Oliver; Šömen, Maja Maša; Peskar, Manca; Fricke, Madeleine; Gramann, Klaus; Protzak, Janna; Marusic, Uros; Wollesen, Bettina

FG Biopsychologie und Neuroergonomie

Background: Hearing impairments are associated with reduced walking performance under Dual-task (DT) conditions. Little is known about the neural representation of DT performance while walking in this target group compared to healthy controls or younger adults. Therefore, utilizing the Mobile Brain/Body Imaging approach (MoBI), we aim at gaining deeper insights into the brain dynamics underlying the interaction of cognitive and motor processes during different DT conditions (visual and auditory) controlling for age and the potential performance decrements of older adults with hearing impairments. Methods: The cross-sectional study integrates a multifactorial mixed-measure design. Between-subject factors grouping the sample will be age (younger vs. older adults) and hearing impairment (mild vs. not hearing impaired). The within-subject factors will be the task complexity (single- vs. DT) and cognitive task modality (visual vs. auditory). Stimuli of the cognitive task will vary according to the stimulus modality (visual vs. auditory), presentation side (left vs. right), and presentation-response compatibility (ipsilateral vs. contralateral). Analyses of DT costs and underlying neuronal correlates focus either on gait or cognitive performance. Based on an a priori sample size calculation 96 (48 healthy and 48 mildly hearing impaired) community-dwelling older adults (50–70 years) and 48 younger adults (20–30 years) will be recruited. Gait parameters of speed and rhythm will be captured. EEG activity will be recorded using 64 active electrodes. Discussion: The study evaluates cognitive-motor interference (CMI) in groups of young and older adults as well as older adults with hearing impairment. The underlying processes of the interaction between motor and cognitive tasks will be identified at a behavioral and neurophysiological level comparing an auditory or a visual secondary task. We assume that performance differences are linked to different cognitive-motor processes, i.e., stimulus input, resource allocation, and movement execution. Moreover, for the different DT conditions (auditory vs. visual) we assume performance decrements within the auditory condition, especially for older, hearing-impaired adults. Findings will provide evidence of general mechanisms of CMI (ST vs. DT walking) as well as task-specific effects in dual-task performance while over ground walking.