Author(s): Abernethy B, Hanna A, Plooy A
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Abstract The purpose of this study was to determine the attentional demands of natural and imposed gait, as well as the attentional costs of transitions between the walking and running co-ordination patterns. Seven healthy young men and four healthy young women undertook an auditory probe reaction time task concurrently with self-selected gait (Experiment 1) and imposed walking and running (Experiment 2) at different speeds on a motor-driven treadmill. In Experiment 1, where participants were free to choose their own movement pattern to match the speed of travel of the treadmill, normal gait control was shown to have a significant attentional cost, and hence not be automatic in the classical sense. However, this attentional cost did not differ between the two gait modes or at the transition point. In Experiment 2, where participants were required to maintain specific gait modes regardless of the treadmill speed, the maintenance of walking at speeds normally associated with running was found to have an attentional cost whereas this was not the case for running at normal walking speeds. Collectively the findings support a model of gait control in which the normal switching between gait modes is determined with minimal attention demand and in which it is possible to sustain non-preferred gait modes although, in the case of walking, only at a significant attentional/cognitive cost.
This article was published in Gait Posture
and referenced in International Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation