The effect of cognitive challenge on brain activity and weight-shifting characteristics during exergaming : an experimental study on healthy young adults
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Background: Exergaming has become a topic of increasing interest during the last decade, not only for entertainment purposes, but also in clinical use. The focus has to date mainly been on the physical benefits of exergaming, and little is known of its effect on brain Activity during gameplay. Specifically, there is a lack of knowledge regarding whether exergames can lead to higher activation of the frontal area of the brain during exergaming, and thereby challenge executive functions. This is mainly due to a lack of appropriate empirical Methods in the previous years. Additionally, there is a need for further knowledge regarding the effect of cognitive challenge on movement characteristics, such as weight shifting. Aim: To investigate whether it is feasible to measure frontal theta activity while playing a balancebased exergame. Furthermore, to investigate whether frontal theta power increases with increased cognitive challenge, and whether cognitive challenge affects the quality of weightshifting characteristics. Methods: Twenty-four healthy young adults (12 men, 12 women, mean age 24.5±0.4 yrs) repeatedly shifted their weight mediolaterally in three conditions: 1) self-paced weight shifting without exergame context, 2) puzzle exergame with one Puzzle piece, 3) puzzle game with two puzzle pieces. Brain activity was recorded using a 64-channel EEG system and EOG electrodes (SynAmps RT, Compumedics Neurocscan, US). Ground reaction forces from two Kistler force plates were recorded at 100 Hz, and used to calculate mediolateral amplitude, area, velocity, and smoothness (calculated as jerk) of the Centre of Pressure (CoP). Statistical analysis consisted of paired samples t-tests and 1-way and 3-way repeated measures ANOVAs, using pairwise comparisons with Bonferroni corrections as post-hoc follow-up. Results: Measuring EEG while playing a balance-based exergame was found to be feasible. Frontal theta power increased significantly in the exergaming conditions compared to shifting weight with no exergaming context. However, no further increase in frontal theta power was found when increasing the difficulty level of the exergame. No significant differences were found in weight-shifting characteristics between the two exergaming conditions. Conclusion: The results from this study confirm that it is feasible to measure EEG while moving, even with a passive electrode system. Furthermore, exergaming increases frontal theta activation in healthy young adults. However, neither frontal theta activity nor weight-shifting characteristics were influenced by a further increase in cognitive challenge in the exergame.