Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 8, pp 2387–2397 | Cite as

Effect of a cognitive task on online adjustments when avoiding stepping on an obstacle and stepping on a target during walking in young adults

  • Andréia Abud da Silva Costa
  • Luciana Oliveira dos Santos
  • Renato MoraesEmail author
Research Article


During locomotion, we respond to environmental and task changes by adjusting steps length and width. Different protocols involving stepping on targets and obstacle avoidance suggest the involvement of cortical and subcortical pathways in these online adjustments. The addition of a concomitant cognitive task (CT) can affect these online corrections depending on the neural pathway used. Thereby, we investigated the online adjustment using a target stepping task and a planar obstacle avoidance task in young adults and analyzed the effect of a CT on these adjustments. Twenty young adults executed two blocks of trials of walking performing the target task (TT) and obstacle avoidance task (OAT), with and without a concomitant CT. In the TT, participants stepped on a target projected on the ground, whereas in the OAT they avoided stepping on an obstacle projected on the ground. The target/obstacle could change its original position in four directions at contralateral foot contact on the ground. Overall, the CT did not affect the latency to start the adjustments due to target/obstacle change. The main changes were restricted to the frontal plane adjustments. The latency for the medial and lateral choices in the OAT was ~ 200 ms, whereas for the TT was ~ 150 ms. These results suggest the involvement of a slow cortical pathway in the OAT in the frontal plane modifications. In turn, the TT may be controlled by one of two fast adjustment neural pathways.


Adaptive locomotion Latency Target Obstacle Digit-monitoring task 



The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP/Brazil—Grant 2016/02202-8) supported this study. We would like to thank Eduardo Bergonzoni Junqueira and Tenysson Will de Lemos for their technical assistance.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ribeirão Preto Medical School, Graduate Program in Rehabilitation and Functional PerformanceUniversity of São PauloRibeirão PretoBrazil
  2. 2.Biomechanics and Motor Control Laboratory, School of Physical Education and Sport of Ribeirão PretoUniversity of São PauloRibeirão PretoBrazil

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