Examining links between anxiety, attentional focus and altered control of balance and gait in young and older adults
Part of the School of Sport Health and Applied Science Research Seminar Series 2017/18.
Location: N44, St Mary's University, Twickenham
Will Young and Toby Ellmers, Cognition and Neuroscience Research Group, Brunel University, London.
Falls are the leading cause of injury, and mortality from injury, in those aged 65 years and older (Bialoszewski et al., 2008), with the daily cost of falls for the NHS exceeding £4.6 million (Age UK, 2010). Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop interventions aimed at reducing the number of elderly falls. However, before we can do this, we must identify what makes certain older adults more susceptible to falls. Research clearly demonstrates a link between fall-related anxiety and increased fall-risk (Delbaere et al., 2010; Friedman et al., 2002; Hadjistavropoulos et al., 2011).
However, the mechanisms mediating this association are largely unknown. In a recent review of the literature, Young and Williams (2015) proposed that this association may be underpinned by an anxiety-induced internal focus of attention disrupting the perceptual (i.e., how we visually scan our environment for threats to balance) and motor processes (i.e., how much attention we direct towards consciously controlling our movement) necessary for maintaining safety during locomotion.
In this seminar, we present research conducted in our laboratory that has sought to evaluate this proposed mechanism through a series of empirical investigations that have utilised measures of both psychological processing (i.e., eye-tracking and dual-tasking/attentional focus) and human movement science (i.e., gait analysis and postural control).
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