Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 11, pp 3043–3052 | Cite as

Memory impairment during a climbing traverse: implications for search and rescue climbing

  • Samantha L. EplingEmail author
  • Megan J. Blakely
  • Graham K. Edgar
  • Paul N. Russell
  • William S. Helton
Research Article


Cognitive resource limitations can impair one’s ability to multitask. Previous research has shown that climbing is a particularly demanding task, and does not neatly fit into existing cognitive resource models. Climbing is a task relevant to firefighting and search and rescue, and operators often must also handle communication and navigation tasks in tandem. We present the results of a study where a naturalistic narrative memory task was paired with a climbing traverse. As hypothesized, both climbing and memory performance significantly declined in the dual-compared to each single-task condition. The specific cognitive demands of climbing should be explored further using non-verbal secondary tasks, to determine whether an executive resource bottleneck, verbal resource demand, or something else entirely can better explain the dual-task interference. A more thorough understanding of the mental demand in concurrent operational tasks can be used to tailor the modality and timing or diversion of certain tasks for minimal interference.


Dual-task Resource theory Working memory Climbing 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Canterbury Human Ethics Committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of Natural and Social SciencesUniversity of GloucestershireCheltenhamUK
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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