Skip to main content

Cognitive control processes associated with successful gait performance in dual-task walking in healthy young adults


Growing evidence suggests that the reliance on cognitive control processes during normal walking increases as the locomotor task gets more complex and challenging. The aims of the present study were to explore the (negative) effects of smartphone gaming on gait performance in healthy young adults, and to identify cognitive resources that might help to maintain high gait performance during dual-task walking. Gait speed and gait variability during walking at a self-selected comfortable speed were assessed in 40 healthy, young adults, and compared between single-task and dual-task walking (i.e., concurrent smartphone gaming) in undisturbed, simple and more challenging walking environments (i.e., stepping over an obstacle while walking). Based on single-task performance, dual-tasking costs were computed and linked to higher-level cognitive control processes, which were assessed for each individual. Cognitive function testing encompassed tests on the mental representation of the gait, working memory capacity, inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility. Our data revealed that gaming on a smartphone while walking strongly affected participants’ gait performance (i.e., up to 26.8% lower gait speed and 60.2% higher gait variability), and decrements in gait performance were related to higher cognitive control processes. Cognitive resources that were associated with performance decrements in dual-task walking include response inhibition, cognitive flexibility, working memory, and a well-structured mental representation of the gait. From that, it appears that even in healthy young adults better cognitive resources may help to maintain high gait performance in situations, in which we have to deal with dual- or multi-task demands (e.g., using a smartphone) while walking.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


Download references


We would like to thank Franziska Kesper, Paul Sternberg and Hendrikje Suhr for their help in data collection.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tino Stöckel.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

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

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Stöckel, T., Mau-Moeller, A. Cognitive control processes associated with successful gait performance in dual-task walking in healthy young adults. Psychological Research 84, 1766–1776 (2020).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: