Person with prosthetic leg on treadmill

UMD researchers partnered with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to measure brain activity while participants with prosthetics performed tasks of varying cognitive difficulty.

January 27, 2020

An article in the Orthotic & Prosthetic Almanac featured research led by University of Maryland kinesiology researchers Rodolphe Gentili, Emma Shaw and Bradley Hatfield on varying mental workloads among amputees during dual-task walking. 

The use of prosthetics may require more cognitive demand of transfemoral (above-knee) amputees than transtibial (below-knee) amputees, the study found. 

The researchers partnered with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to measure electrical activity in the brain, or electroencephalography, while participants with prosthetics performed tasks of varying cognitive difficulty, while either walking or sitting. 

The study found no significant difference in walking speeds or accuracy in completing the cognitive tasks. But, researchers found evidence to suggest that there is an additional impact on neurocognitive processes to use a transfemoral prosthesis, as opposed to a transtibial prosthesis while walking and performing cognitive tasks. 

Because lower-limb amputees experience difficulties and fears in navigating terrain and ensuring their safety when walking, the findings emphasize the need for future efforts to focus on the design of prosthetics, training practices and help with acclimation. 

“Our work suggests that a greater neuromechanical loss results in increased engagement of cognitive-motor resources, resulting in greater mental effort to possibly ensure safe walking while executing a secondary cognitive task,” Gentili told Q&P Almanac. 

Further studies are needed to confirm these findings to larger populations and different situations, the researchers said. 

The study, “A Comparison of Mental Workload in Individuals with Transtibial and Transfemoral Lower Limb Loss During Dual-Task Walking Under Varying Demand,” was published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society. 

Gentili’s research focuses on cognitive-motor control and learning. He directs the Neuromotor Control and Learning Laboratory at the School of Public Health.

Related Links

A Comparison of Mental Workload in Individuals with Transtibial and Transfemoral Lower Limb Loss During Dual-Task Walking...

Q&P Almanac: Prosthesis Use May Require More Cognitive Demand of Transfemoral Amputees Than Transitibial Amputees

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Rodolphe Gentili, Emma Shaw, Bradley D. Hatfield