Effects of cognitive workload on heart and locomotor rhythms coupling

Daniela De Bartolo, Chiara De Giorgi, Luca Compagnucci, Viviana Betti, Gabriella Antonucci, Giovanni Morone, Stefano Paolucci, Marco Iosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Different physiological signals could be coupled under specific conditions, in some cases related to pathologies or reductions in system complexity. Cardiac-locomotor synchronization (CLS) has been one of the most investigating coupling. The influence of a cognitive task on walking was investigated in dual-task experiments, but how different cognitive tasks may influence CLS has poorly been investigated. Twenty healthy subjects performed a dual-task walking (coupled with verbal fluency vs calculation) on a treadmill at three different speeds (comfortable speed CS; fast-speed: CS + 2 km/h; slow-speed: CS-2 km/h) while cardiac and walking rhythms were recorded using surface electrodes and a triaxial accelerometer, respectively. According to previous studies, we found a cognitive-motor interference for which cognitive performance was affected by motor exercise, but not vice-versa. We found a CLS at the baseline condition, at fast speed in both cognitive tasks, while at comfortable speed only for the verbal fluency task. In conclusion, the cardiac and locomotor rhythms were not coupled at slow speed and at comfortable speed during subtraction task. Cognitive performances generally increased at faster speed, when cardiac locomotor coupling was stronger.

Original languageEnglish
Article number136140
JournalNeuroscience Letters
Publication statusPublished - Sep 25 2021


  • Dual task
  • Heart rhythms
  • Physiological coupling
  • Walking rhythms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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