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Dementia & Neuropsychologia

Print version ISSN 1980-5764

Dement. neuropsychol. vol.5 no.3 São Paulo July/Sept. 2011 

Original Articles

Effects of motor and cognitive dual-task performance in depressive elderly, healthy older adults, and healthy young individuals

Efeitos do desempenho de dupla-tarefa motora e cognitiva em idosos depressivos, idosos saudáveis e jovens saudáveis

Helena Moraes 1  

Andrea Deslandes 2  

Heitor Silveira 1  

Cynthia Arcoverde 1  

Heloisa Alve 3  

Jerson Laks 4  

1Ms, Center for Alzheimer Disease and Related Disorders, Institute of Psychiatry of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro RJ, Brazil;

2PHD, National School of Public Health, FIOCRUZ, Rio de Janeiro RJ, Brazil.

3Ms, Beckman Institute & Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign USA.

4PHD, Researcher Pq2 from the National Research Council (CNPq) Brazil.


Impairments in dual-task performance can be observed in healthy older adults when motor and cognitive assignments are applied simultaneously. According to the hypofrontality hypothesis, there may be a reduction in frontal cognitive function during exercise.


The aim of the present study was to compare the performance changes on cognitive tests of depressive elderly (n=10), healthy older adults (n=10), and healthy young individuals (n=10) during cycle ergometer exercise.


The groups were submitted to a working memory test, a short memory test and a semantic memory test, before and during a 20-minute cycle ergometer exercise at 80% of their age-predicted maximal heart rate.


Significant differences (p=0.04) were observed in scores on the digit backward test during exercise when young individuals were compared to healthy older adults. This result indicates that young subjects, as expected, had better performance than elderly. No significant differences were found among the groups for the digit forward subtest (p=0.40) or the vocabulary test (p=0.69).


Data from this study showed that healthy older adults had impaired performance on higher cognitive tasks when these assignments were applied together with motor tasks.

Key words: exercise; cognition; depression; aging; dual-task


Prejuízos no desempenho de dupla tarefa podem ser observados em idosos saudáveis quando tarefas motoras e cognitivas são aplicadas simultaneamente. De acordo com a hipótese da hipofrontalidade, durante o exercício pode ocorrer uma redução no desempenho de tarefas cognitivas frontais.


O objetivo do presente estudo foi comparar as modificações no desempenho cognitivo durante o exercício em bicicleta ergométrica em idosos depressivos (n=10), idosos saudáveis(n=10), e jovens saudáveis (n=10).


Os grupos foram submetidos a teste de memória de trabalho, teste de memória de curto prazo e teste de memória semântica antes e durante 20 minutos de exercício em bicicleta estacionária a 80% da frequência cardíaca máxima prevista pela idade.


Foi observada uma diferença significativa nas mudanças do escore do teste digit backward quando comparados os grupos de jovens e idosos saudáveis (p=0,04), a qual indicou que o jovem mostrou melhora no desempenho, enquanto o grupo de idosos saudáveis declinou. Não houve diferença significativa entre grupos para o subteste de dígitos ordem direta (p=0,40) e teste de vocabulário (p=0,69).


Os resultados da nossa investigação mostrou que pessoas idosas saudáveis apresentaram prejuízo no desempenho de tarefas cognitivas complexas quando desempenhadas durante a tarefa motora.

Palavras-chave: exercício; cognição; depressão; envelhecimento; dupla-tarefa

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Received: May 05, 2011; Accepted: July 17, 2011

Helena Moraes - Rua João Lira, 157 / 306 - 22430-210. Rio de Janeiro RJ - Brazil. E-mail:

Disclosure: The authors report no conflicts of interest.

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