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Title: Examining links between anxiety, attentional focus, and altered control of locomotion
Author: Ellmers, Toby Jack
ISNI:       0000 0004 7972 8634
Awarding Body: Brunel University London
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2019
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The present programme of research sought to explore how fall-related anxiety, and resulting changes in attention, influence the control of adaptive locomotion. Six interrelated studies were conducted to achieve this aim. Studies 1-3 were conducted with young adults. In Study 1, we demonstrated that the maintenance of effective visuomotor control during adaptive gait requires cognitive resources. The results of Study 2 extended these findings and indicated that fall-related anxiety - through the likely mediator of heightened conscious movement processing - reduces the cognitive resources available for processing concurrent tasks during adaptive locomotion. Study 3 (Experiment 1) described that young adults anxious about falling display visual search patterns indicative of reduced feedforward planning. Study 3 (Experiment 2) indicated that these anxiety-related changes in visual search are a likely consequence of altered prioritisation resulting from the conscious processing of discrete stepping movements; rather than simply a reduction in the cognitive resources available for maintaining effective visual search. Studies 4-6 were conducted with older adults. Study 4 described that anxious older adults at a high risk of falling will direct attention towards worries/ruminations related to falling - in addition to consciously processing stepping movements. Study 5 provided evidence of a link between fall-related anxiety and the maladaptive visual search behaviours reported previously in high-risk older adults. Finally, Study 6 indicated that the anxiety-related visual search behaviours reported in Study 5 are likely underpinned by heightened attention directed towards consciously processing stepping movements. The present programme of research provides evidence of a link between fall-related anxiety, and associated changes in attention, and altered visuomotor control of adaptive locomotion. The findings presented herein support the importance of considering attentional mechanisms when inferring how fall-related may influence an individual's risk of falling.
Supervisor: Young, W. ; Karageorghis, C. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Visual search ; Fear of falling ; Older adults ; Dual-task ; Internal focus