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Training-induced plasticity of multitasking in everyday-like motor behavior (2015-2018; 2018-2021)


Claudia Voelcker-Rehage

Prof. Dr. Claudia Voelcker-Rehage

Principal Investigator                           

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Otmar Bock

Prof. Dr. Otmar Bock      

Principal Investigator

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Konstantin Wechsler

Konstantin Wechsler

PhD Candidate

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Former Team Members

Christin Janouch 

Christin Janouch           

PhD Candidate

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Uwe Drescher 

Dr. Uwe Drescher          

Post-doctoral Fellow

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 Mathias Haeger

Mathias Haeger

Project Collaborator

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Abstract (2018-2021)

Many activities of daily life involve sensorimotor and cognitive multitasking. Often-cited examples are driving a car, shopping in a supermarket and crossing a street in busy traffic. Previous research documented that multitasking skills decline with advancing age, which could compromise older persons’ safety and independence in everyday life. It is still not clear how training regimes should be designed to effectively and efficiently exploit the training-induced plasticity of multitasking and thus to facilitate older persons’ participation in everyday activities. A main obstacle in understanding the problem and its possible solutions is that nearly all our knowledge about multitasking comes from typical laboratory paradigms which differ from normal life in two important ways. First, they administer not more than two tasks concurrently or alternately, while everyday activities usually involve an ever-changing sequence of tasks. Second, they administer tasks with no practical purpose, while everyday life is usually driven by purpose. To overcome these methodological barriers, we developed and evaluated in phase 1 of this project two new and more realistic experimental paradigms for the study of multitasking. In a virtual-reality setup, participants either drive a car or cross a busy street while concurrently responding to an ever-changing sequence of loading tasks which simulate everyday activities; the loading tasks use different sensory modalities, engage different cognitive processes and require different motor outputs. We found that age-related deficits emerge in these realistic multitasking paradigms as well, and that they are dramatically high when loading tasks require gaze changes and parallel visual processing. Research objective 1 (RO1) for the second SPP phase will determine whether multitasking performance in our realistic paradigms is better, equal or worse than that in classical paradigms that involve only two concurrent or two alternating tasks. RO2 will explore a new training regime, which builds upon existing theories about the central mechanisms of action control. This regime takes into account that the available capacity of those mechanisms is not the same for all individuals, and different persons therefore should be trained in different ways. We will compare the benefits of such personalized training to those of conventional, fixed training. RO3 will investigate the neuronal underpinning of realistic multitasking. To this end, we will register participants’ brain activation while they engage in realistic or classical paradigms. Taken together, the proposed research should expand our knowledge about realistic multitasking and its adaptive plasticity, and should highlight new avenues for the training of older adults’ multitasking skills.

Abstract (2015-2018)

Modern society relies increasingly on our ability to perform multiple motor and or cognitive tasks concurrently, e.g., when driving a car or when using a smartphone while walking. At the same time, in context of the aging society, the number of older persons with poor multitasking skills increases. These diverging trends call for training programs that build upon the known training-induced plasticity of multitasking in tasks requiring sensorimotor performance. However, it is not clear exactly what needs to be trained to improve multitasking effectively and efficiently and how generalized the benefits are. Furthermore, most available studies have used typical laboratory paradigms and very little is known about training-induced plasticity of multitasking in ecologically valid contexts. To fill this gap, we aim to determine whether and which executive functions contribute how strongly to everyday-like multitasking in young and older adults, and whether training of the relevant executive functions produces generalized benefits for multitasking in real life situations.


Project Output

Bock, O., Drescher, U., van Winsum, W., Kesnerus, T. F., & Voelcker-Rehage, C. (2018). A Virtual-Reality Approach for the Assessment and Rehabilitation of Multitasking Deficits. International Journal of Virtual and Augmented Reality (IJVAR), 2(1), 48–58.

Bock, O., Drescher, U., Janouch, C., Haeger, M., van Winsum, W., & Voelcker-Rehage, C. (2018). An experimental paradigm for the assessment of realistic human multitasking. Virtual Reality. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10055-018-0342-7

Haeger, M., Bock, O., Memmert, D., & Hüttermann, S. (2018). Can driving-simulator training enhance visual attention, cognition, and physical functioning in older adults? Journal of Aging Research, Article ID 7547631.

Janouch, C., Drescher, U., Wechsler, K., Haeger, M., Bock, O., & Voelcker-Rehage, C. (2018). Distracted Street Crossing – Cognitive-Motor Interference in an Ecologically Valid Scenario. In K. Zentgraf, H. Mueller, & E. Hazeltine (Eds.), Cognitive-Motor Interference in Multi-Tasking Research..

Janouch, C., Bock, O., Drescher, U., Wechsler, K., & Voelcker-Rehage, C. (2018). Cognitive-motor interference in an ecologically valid street crossing scenario. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, Article 602.

Wechsler, K., Drescher, U., Janouch, C., Haeger, M., Voelcker-Rehage, C., & Bock, O. (2018). Multitasking while car driving in young and in older persons. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, Article 910.

Dalecki, M., Kalicinski, M., Steinberg, F., & Bock, O. (2017). Age-related operator deficits in a realistic instrument-control task: Assessment of possible motor, cognitive and mental causes. Int J Industrial Ergonomics 59:100-107.

Giannouli, E., Bock, O., & Zijlstra, W. (2017). Cognitive functioning is more closely related to real-life mobility than tolaboratory based mobility parameters. Eur J Ageing, 1-9.

Godde, B., & Voelcker-Rehage, C. (2017). Cognitive resources necessary for motor control in older adults are reduced by walking and coordination training. Frontiers Human Neuroscience. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00156.

Bock, O., Brustio, P.R., & Borisova, S. (2016). Age differences of gaze distribution during pedestrian walking in a virtual-reality environment. Int J Appl Psychol 6:64-69.

Bock, O., & Akpinar, S. (2016). Performance of older persons in a simulated shopping task is influenced by priming with age stereotypes. PLoS ONE 11:e0160739.

Giannouli, E., Bock, O., Mellone, S., & Zijlstra, W. (2016). Mobility in old age: capacity is not performance. BioMed Research International.

Wollesen, B., Voelcker-Rehage, C., Regenbrecht, T., & Mattes, K. (2016). Influence of a visual-verbal stroop test on standing and walking performance of older adults-an experimental study based on a literature review. Neuroscience 318, 166-177.

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