While walking with a prosthesis requires substantial concentration on the user’s behalf and places increased demands on executive functions, little is known of the effects that prosthetic knee joint prescription may have on executive functioning.

A study published in Prosthetics and Orthotics International evaluated executive functioning for individuals with transfemoral amputations during single and dual-task walking, before and after the individual had transitioned to a microprocessor-controlled prosthetic knee (MPK).

As part of the study, single and dual task gait was evaluated while recording cortical brain activity. Initial testing occurred prior to the participant receiving his or her MPK, and testing on the second occasion was conducted a minimum of eight months after the user had been fitted with an MPK.

During single-task level walking and walking while performing a dual-task key finding test, executive functions, measured as the relative hemodynamic response in the frontal cortex, reduced for most, but not all participants after transitioning to an MPK, the study found. There appeared to be little difference when participants performed a trial walking test, according to the study.

Results from the study suggested that MPKs may have a positive effect on executive functioning for some individuals with lower-limb amputations. A larger, longitudinal study with control of extraneous variables such as age and training, however, is needed to confirm results and determine causality, the study found.