Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Nagamatsu, Lindsay S.


Human mobility requires neurocognitive inputs to safely navigate the environment. Previous research has examined neural processes that underly walking using mobile neuroimaging technologies, yet few studies have incorporated true real-world methods without a specific task imposed on participants (e.g., dual-task, motor demands). The present study utilized mobile electroencephalography to examine and compare theta, alpha, and beta frequency band power (μV2) in young adults during sitting and walking in laboratory and real-world environments. Our findings support that mobility and environment may modulate neural activity, as we observed increased brain activation for walking compared to sitting, and for real-world walking compared to laboratory walking. Our study highlights the importance and potential for real-world methods to supplement standard research practices to increase the ecological validity of studies conducted in the fields of kinesiology and neuroscience.

Summary for Lay Audience

Walking is important for humans to get from one place to another and explore the surrounding environment. For most people, walking feels automatic and does not require much thought. However, our brain is active during movement, and researchers have tried to examine what is happening in our brain during walking using mobile brain imaging technologies. A primary limitation of previous research is that brain activity during walking has mostly been recorded in a standard laboratory environment. This may be problematic because laboratory environments tend to lack visual and auditory stimuli provided by real-world environments. The few studies that have recorded brain activity in real-world environments have mainly required participants to walk and perform another task at the same time, referred to as a dual-task. For the current study, we were interested in understanding what is happening in the brain during walking in a real-world environment without having participants perform a specific task. 40 young adults completed four conditions while we recorded their brain activity using a mobile headband. The four conditions were as follows: 1) sitting in the laboratory, 2) walking in the laboratory on a treadmill, 3) sitting in an indoor real-world common area on campus, and 4) walking around an indoor real-world common area on campus. In general, we observed higher brain activity during walking compared to sitting. Further, walking in the real-world showed higher brain activity than walking on the treadmill in the laboratory overall. Our results suggest that level of mobility (sitting vs. walking) and environment (laboratory vs. real-world) may impact brain activity. As most research on human movement and brain activity has taken place in a standard laboratory environment, we show the importance and possibility of taking research into the real-world. Using real-world methods to supplement standard practices can provide additional information that is more applicable to the population at large.