, Volume 97, Issue 1, pp 139-144

Attentional demands for static and dynamic equilibrium

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Abstract

Upright standing and walking tasks require the integration of several sources of sensory information. In a normal and highly predictable environment, locomotor synergies involving several muscles may take place at lower spinal levels with neural circuitry tuned by local loops of assistance or self-organizing processes generated in coordinative networks. When ongoing regulation of gait is necessary (obstacles, changes in direction) supraspinal involvement is necessary to perform movements adapted to the environment. Using a classical information processing framework and a dual-task methodology, it is possible to evaluate the attentional demands for performing static and dynamic equilibrium tasks. The present experiment evaluates whether the attentional requirements for a control sitting condition and for standing and walking conditions vary with the intrinsic balance demands of the tasks. The results show that standing and walking conditions required more attention than sitting in a chair. The attentional cost for walking was also significantly greater than for standing. For the walking task, reaction times when subjects were in singlesupport phase (small base of support) were significantly longer than those in double-support phase, suggesting that the attentional demands increased with an increase in the balance requirements of the task. Balance control requires a continuous regulation and integration of sensory inputs; increasing balance demands loads the higher level cognitive system.