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Title: Explicit and implicit motor learning during early gait rehabilitation post stroke
Author: Johnson, Louise
ISNI:       0000 0004 5347 2749
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2014
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Learning can be explicit or implicit. Explicit learning takes place intentionally, in the presence of factual task-relevant knowledge; whereas implicit learning takes place unintentionally, without concurrent acquisition of knowledge about task performance. The relative benefits of implicit learning have been well investigated within healthy populations. Research consistently demonstrates that skills learnt implicitly are more likely to be retained, and are more robust under secondary task load. However, study protocols tend to involve laboratory based activities, which do not take into account the complexities of motor learning in natural settings. Direct transferability of the findings to stroke rehabilitation is therefore questionable. Two factors in explicit and implicit learning are the concepts of attentional capacity and attentional focus. Attentional capacity refers to the ability to attend to and process incoming information, whereas attentional focus refers to the location of attention in relation to specific aspects of the task being performed. Theories propose that focussing on specific movements (internal focus) may actually constrain or interfere with automatic control processes that would normally regulate movement, whereas if attention is focussed towards the movement effect (external focus) the motor system is able to more naturally self-organize, resulting in more effective performance, and learning. An internal focus of attention is therefore allied to explicit learning; whilst an external focus of attention is allied to implicit learning. This research aimed to improve understanding of explicit and implicit learning within early gait rehabilitation post stroke; primarily through the development and testing of explicit and implicit models of learning interventions. It has comprised three phases; a review of the literature; an observational study to gain insight into current practice; and a feasibility study to test the ability of therapists to deliver interventions with a bias towards either an explicit or implicit approach. Therapists were found to favour the use of explicit techniques; internally focussed instructions and feedback statements were used in high quantities. Practice therefore appeared to be at odds with current evidence; albeit primarily from healthy populations. Guidance for the delivery of explicit and implicit learning models in clinical practice was developed, and then tested in a feasibility study. Therapists demonstrated the ability to change their practice to bias either explicit or implicit learning; both approaches were found to be acceptable to patients and therapists. Recommendations are made on the content and evaluation of explicit and implicit learning models in future research, and specifically, in a Phase II pilot study.
Supervisor: Burridge, Jane ; Demain, Sara ; Ewings, Sean Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry ; RT Nursing