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Studies

Half of people born with natural ability to walk and look at their phone at same time

"It has long been thought that when walking is combined with a task, both suffer."

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(Cast Of Thousands via Shutterstock)

By Jim Leffman via SWNS

The ability to walk whilst also concentrating on your phone effectively is skill that around half of us are born with, scientists claim.

They found that for some, walking actually boosts their mental ability, allowing them to multi-task.

And they hope it could be a marker for "super agers" whose brains function well as pensioners.

Researchers at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester looked at 26 healthy 18-30 year olds for their study.

They found that 14 of them who improved on the task whilst walking underwent a change in frontal brain function the other 12 lacked.

First author doctoral student Eleni Patelaki, said: "It has long been thought that when walking is combined with a task, both suffer.

"Most studies in the field show that the more tasks that we have to do concurrently the lower our performance gets.

“There was no predictor of who would fall into which category before we tested them and we initially thought that everyone would respond similarly.

"“It was surprising that for some of the subjects it was easier for them to do dual-tasking, do more than one task, compared to single-tasking, doing each task separately.

"This was interesting and unexpected."

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For the study, published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, the participants were asked to look at a series of images while sitting on a chair and click a button every time it changed but not if it was the same image again.

They then repeated the experiment whilst walking. They were all monitored with electroencephalogram, or EEG, and the Mobile Brain/Body Imaging system, or MoBI, which monitored the brain activity, kinematics and behavior.

Patelaki added: "To the naked eye, there were no differences in our participants. It wasn’t until we started analyzing their behavior and brain activity that we found the surprising difference in the group's neural signature and what makes them handle complex dual-tasking processes differently.

“These findings have the potential to be expanded and translated to populations where we know that flexibility of neural resources gets compromised.”

Study leader Dr. Edward Freedman, associate professor of neuroscience at the Del Monte Institute, said that the research could be expanded to older adults and identify super agers.

“These new findings highlight that the MoBI can show us how the brain responds to walking and how the brain responds to the task," he said.

“This gives us a place to start looking in the brains of older adults, especially healthy ones.

"Expanding this research to older adults could guide scientists to identify a possible marker for ‘super agers’ or people who have a minimal decline in cognitive functions.

"This marker would be useful in helping better understand what could be going awry in neurodegenerative diseases."

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