Temporal properties of attention sharing consequent to disturbed balance

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Abstract

THE time course and extent of attentional shifts associated with compensatory balancing reactions were explored using a novel dual-task paradigm. Seated subjects performed a continuous visuomotor tracking task with the hand while the feet simultaneously balanced an inverted pendulum. The pendulum was randomly perturbed, evoking compensatory balance reactions. Changes in tracking performance were held to reflect attentional shifts. Discrete deviation in visuomotor tracking, typically a pause in tracking, began on average 235 ms after the onset of the balance reaction (TA EMG; average latency 90 ms). Such pauses lasted on average 600 ms, although additional errors in tracking lasted up to 9 s following the perturbation. The findings reveal evidence of dynamic shifts in attention associated with distinct phases of compensatory balance control. The initial phase appears to be triggered automatically, whereas later phases involve varying degrees of attentional resources.

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