Sensorimotor-Cognitive Couplings

Everyday life often requires the integration and coordination of perception, action, and thought. Examples include walking while trying to memorize a shopping list or maintaining one’s balance on a bus while trying to read an advertisement. Similarly, the successful execution of complex movements requires task-specific coordination of body parts and anticipatory control.

How do individuals of different ages or with different levels of expertise adapt to multiple sensorimotor and cognitive demands? How does the interaction between the sensorimotor and cognitive dimensions of behavior develop across the lifespan? In our research, we seek to provide answers to these questions by focusing on motor aspects of behavior, both in isolation and in relation to cognition.

The project investigates lifespan differences in interactions between sensorimotor and cognitive aspects of behavior (e.g., Schaefer, Huxhold, & Lindenberger, 2006) as well as lifespan differences in movement organization and coordination (e.g., Verrel, Lövdén, & Lindenberger, 2012). More recently, we have started to expand our research interests to movement development in early childhood.

Team SensCog | Projekt Sensomotorische und kognitive Entwicklung
© MPI fuer Bildungsforschung

Recent Publications

Kleemeyer, M. M., Polk, T. A., Schaefer, S., Bodammer, N. C., Brechtel, L., & Lindenberger, U. (in press). Exercise-induced fitness changes correlate with changes in neural specificity in older adults. Frontiers in Neuroscience.

Kleemeyer, M. M., Kühn, S., Prindle, J., Bodammer, N. C., Brechtel, L., Garthe, A., ... Lindenberger, U. (2016). Changes in fitness are associated with changes in hippocampal microstructure and hippocampal volume in older adults. NeuroImage, 131, 155–161. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.11.026

Verrel, J., Lisofsky, N., Kühn, S., & Lindenberger, U. (2016). Normal aging increases postural preparation errors: Evidence from a two-choice response task with balance constraints. Gait & Posture, 44, 143–148. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2015.12.002

Movement Lab

Our laboratory is equipped with a motion capture system for measuring human movement with high temporal and spatial accuracy. The motion capture system can also be combined with devices for measuring ground reaction forces, muscle activity, or electrical brain activity. In 2013, our facilities moved to a larger laboratory space, which offers new possibilities for investigating whole-body motor behavior, such as examining locomotion on level ground rather than on the treadmill. This is of particular importance for studies on early motor skills. More information on our lab can be found here.


Julius Verrel
Ulman Lindenberger

Whitney Cole (postdoctoral fellow)

Maike Kleemeyer (predoctoral fellow)

Gabriele Faust
(research assistant)


Sabine Schaefer, Saarland University
Michael Schellenbach, Hochschule Ruhr West – University of Applied Sciences

Early Motor Development

Is your child younger than two? Support our research on early development of movement by registering your child as soon as he or she is born. In case of participation in a study you will be paid a honorarium!

Contact: Gabriele Faust
Ph: (030) 82406-263
bewegung [at] mpib-berlin [dot] mpg [dot] de

Key References

Schaefer, S. (2014). The ecological approach to cognitive–motor dual-tasking: Findings on the effects of expertise and age. Frontiers in Psychology, 5: 1167. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01167

Schaefer, S., Huxhold, O., & Lindenberger, U. (2006). Healthy mind in healthy body? A review of sensorimotor-cognitive interdependencies in old age. European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, 3, 45–54. doi: 10.1007/s11556-006-0007-5

Schaefer, S., Jagenow, D., Verrel, J., & Lindenberger, U. (2015). The influence of cognitive load and walking speed on gait regularity in children and young adults. Gait & Posture, 41, 258–262. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2014.10.013

Schaefer, S., Schellenbach, M., Lindenberger, U., & Woollacott, M. (2015). Walking in high-risk settings: Do older adults still prioritize gait when distracted by a cognitive task? Experimental Brain Research, 233, 79–88. doi: 10.1007/s00221-014-4093-8

Verrel, J., Lisofksy, N., & Kühn, S. (2014). Balancing cognitive control: How observed movements influence motor performance in a task with balance constraints. Acta Psychologica, 150, 129–135. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2014.05.010

Verrel, J., Lövdén, M., & Lindenberger, U. (2012). Older adults show preserved equilibrium and impaired step length control in motor-equivalent stabilization of gait. PLoS ONE: 7(12): e52024. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone. 0052024