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Motor-cognitive dual task performance: a multidimensional approach (2015-2018)


Peter Bublak

Dr. Peter Bublak      

Principal Investigator                  

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Carsten Kligner

Dr. Carsten Klingner

Principal Investigator

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Otto Witte

Prof. Dr. Otto W. Witte      

Principal Investigator

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Erika Künstler

Erika Künstler

PhD Candidate        

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Former Team Members

Benjamin Fuchs

Benjamin Fuchs 

Research Fellow

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Abstract (2015-2018)

With increasing age, postural instability and risk to fall increase under dual task conditions. Working memory (WM) tasks are particularly demanding in this regard. Dual task interference between postural control and WM manipulation may result from the fact that the attentional focus has to be frequently and repeatedly switched, in a time-critical manner, between maintenance and processing operations in WM, and control operations for adjusting upright posture. Therefore, differences in processing speed but also the size of the attentional focus (short-term storage capacity) may represent critical limitations causing interference under dual task conditions.

Four critical questions arise, which are addressed by the proposed project: (1) Do dual task costs depend on the demand on WM manipulation and how does this demand interact with the demand on postural control? (2) Is processing speed or the size of the attentional focus the crucially limiting factor in this regard? (3) What are the underlying brain mechanisms? (4) What are appropriate training strategies to enhance dual task performance?

To reveal the neuro-cognitive mechanisms responsible for dual task interference, we vary the demand on WM manipulation and the demand on postural control, and compare the interactive effects of these variations between healthy young and elderly subjects. We relate these effects to quantitative estimates, based on a theory of visual attention (TVA), of the individual processing speed and short-term storage capacity. Applying fMRI, MEG, and EEG analyses, resting state and task related brain networks are investigated to reveal the cerebral dynamics underlying processing capacity and dual task interference. We are particularly interested in the influences that one functional brain network exerts over another and how this influence changes with the variation of the dual task costs.

Assessment of patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and of patients with phobic vertigo will allow to compare the pathological effects of two types of central processing limitations: structural (in the case of MCI) versus strategic (in the case of phobic vertigo). A comparison of the cerebral connectivity patterns between both groups will provide information about the network basis of a possible structural bottleneck, limiting processing capacity, and of a potentially modifiable strategic bottleneck.

Our proposal brings together movement science, cognitive psychology, brain imaging and clinical neurology in an interdisciplinary approach. The expected results will not only improve our understanding of the neuro-cognitive framework of human performance under motor-cognitive dual task requirements. They can also support the development and understanding of new preventive intervention strategies in postural instability and aging.


Project Output


Fischer, M., Köhler, W., Faiss, J. H., Hoffmann, F., Kunkel, A., Sailer, M., . . . Bublak, P. (2019). A smart peek: Processing of rapid visual displays is disturbed in newly diagnosed, cognitively intact MS patients and refers to cognitive performance and disease progression in late stages. J Neurol Sci, 401, 118-124.

Franke, K., Bublak, P., Hoyer, D., Billiet, T., Gaser, C., Witte, O.W., & Schwab, M. (in press). Invivo biomarkers of structural and functional brain development and aging in humans. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.

Künstler, E. C. S., Penning, M. D., Napiórkowski, N., Klingner, C. M., Witte, O. W., Müller, H. J., . . . Finke, K. (2018). Dual Task Effects on Visual Attention Capacity in Normal Aging. Front Psychol, 9, 1564.

Klingner, C. M., Brodoehl, S., Funck, L, Klingner, C. C., Berrouschot, J., Witte, O. W., & Günther, A. (2018). Transfer of patients in a telestroke network: What are the relevant factors for making this decision? Telemedicine and e-Health, doi:10.1089/tmj.2017.0087.

Künstler, E. C. S., Finke, K., Günther, A., Klingner, C., Witte, O., & Bublak, P. (2018). Motor-cognitive dual-task performance: effects of a concurrent motor task on distinct components of visual processing capacity. Psychological research, 82(1), 177-185.


Künstler, E. C., Penning, M. D., Napiórkowski, N., Klingner, C. M., Witte, O. W., Müller, H. J., Bublak, P. & Finke, K. (2018). Dual task effects on visual attention capacity in normal aging. Frontiers in psychology, 9.


Goetz, T., Hanke, D., Huonker, R., Weiss, T., Klingner, C., Brodoehl, S., Baumbach, P., & Witte, O.W. (2017). The influence of eye closure on somatosensory discrimination: A trade-off betweensimple perception and discrimination. Cerebral Cortex, 27, 3231 – 3239.


Klingner, C. M., Herdtle, S., Brodoehl, S., Hohenstein, C., Wild, T., Behringer, W., Witte, O. W., & Günther, A. (2017). Eine retrospektive Beobachtungsstudie bei Patienten mit akutem ischämischem Hirninfarkt. Notfall + Rettungsmedizin, 20, 509 – 514.


Koranyi, N., Meinhard, M., Bublak, P., Witte, O. W., & Rupprecht, S. (2017). Automatic affectiveresponses towards the bed in patients with primary insomnia: evidence for a negativity bias. Journal of Sleep Research, doi: 10.1111/jsr.12591.


Ruiz-Rizzo, A.L., Bublak, P., Redel, P., Grimmer, T., Müller, H.J., Sorg, C., Finke, K. (2017). Simultaneous object perception deficits are related to reduced visual processing speed in amnestic mild cognitive impairment. Neurobiology of Aging, 55, 132-142.


Abram, K., Bohne, S., Bublak, P., Karvouniari, P., Klingner, C. M., Witte, O. W., Guntinas-Lichius,O., & Axer, H. (2016). The effect of spinal tap test on different sensory modalities of postural stability in idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders,6, 447 – 457.


Klingner, C. M., Axer, H., Brodoehl, S., & Witte, O. W. (2016). Vertigo and the processing of vestibular information: A review in the context of predictive coding. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 71, 379 – 387.


Klingner, C. M., Brodoehl, S., Huonker, R., & Witte, O. W. (2016). The processing of somatosensory information shifts from an early parallel into a serial processing mode: A combined fMRI/MEG study. Frontiers in System Neuroscience, doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2016.00103.


Neitzel , J., Ortner, M., Haupt, M., Redel, P., Grimmer, T., Yakushev, I., Drzezga, A., Bublak, P., Preul, C., Finke, K. (2016). Neuro-cognitive mechanisms of simultanagnosia in patients with posterior cortical atrophy. Brain, 139, 3267-3280.


Klingner, C.M., Hasler, C., Brodoehl, S., Axer, H., Witte, O.W. (2013). Perceptual plasticity is mediated by connectivity changes of the medial thalamic nucleus. Human Brain Mapping, 34, 3243-3252.


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