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Multimodal Imaging of Brain Activity to Investigate Walking and Mobility Decline in Older Adults (Mind in Motion Study): Hypothesis, Theory, and Methods

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Age-related brain changes likely contribute to mobility impairments, but the specific mechanisms are poorly understood. Current brain measurement approaches (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), PET) are limited by inability to measure activity from the whole brain during walking. The Mind in Motion Study will use cutting edge, mobile, high-density electroencephalography (EEG). This approach relies upon innovative hardware and software to deliver three-dimensional localization of active cortical and subcortical regions with good spatial and temporal resolution during walking. Our overarching objective is to determine age-related changes in the central neural control of walking and correlate these findings with a comprehensive set of mobility outcomes (clinic-based, complex walking, and community mobility measures). Our hypothesis is that age-related walking deficits are explained in part by the Compensation Related Utilization of Neural Circuits Hypothesis (CRUNCH). CRUNCH is a well-supported model that describes the over-recruitment of brain regions exhibited by older adults in comparison to young adults, even at low levels of task complexity. CRUNCH also describes the limited brain reserve resources available with aging. These factors cause older adults to quickly reach a ceiling in brain resources when performing tasks of increasing complexity, leading to poor performance. Two hundred older adults and twenty young adults will undergo extensive baseline neuroimaging and walking assessments. Older adults will subsequently be followed for up to 3 years. Aim 1 will evaluate whether brain activity during actual walking explains mobility decline. Cross sectional and longitudinal designs will be used to study whether poorer walking performance and steeper trajectories of decline are associated with CRUNCH indices. Aim 2 is to harmonize high-density EEG during walking with fNIRS (during actual and imagined walking) and fMRI (during imagined walking). This will allow integration of CRUNCH-related hallmarks of brain activity across neuroimaging modalities, which is expected to lead to more widespread application of study findings. Aim 3 will study central and peripheral mechanisms (e.g., cerebral blood flow, brain regional volumes, and connectivity, sensory function) to explain differences in CRUNCH indices during walking. Research performed in the Mind in Motion Study will comprehensively characterize the aging brain during walking for developing new intervention targets.




Clark, D. J., Manini, T. M., Ferris, D. P., Hass, C. J., Brumback, B. A., Cruz-Almeida, Y., … Seidler, R. D. (2020). Multimodal Imaging of Brain Activity to Investigate Walking and Mobility Decline in Older Adults (Mind in Motion Study): Hypothesis, Theory, and Methods. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 11.

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