Saturday, January 21, 2006

Abstract of the Day: Cognitive Demands on Functional Decisions

Alexander NB, Ashton-Miller JA, Giordani B, Guire K, & Schultz AB. Age differences in timed accurate stepping with increasing cognitive and visual demand: A walking trail making test. Jounal of Gerontology: A Biological Sciences and Med Sciences. 2005 Dec; 60(12): 1558-1562.

BACKGROUND: Impaired vision, cognition, and divided attention performance predict falls. Requiring both visual and cognitive input, the ability to step accurately is necessary to safely traverse challenging terrain conditions such as uneven or slippery surfaces. We compared healthy young and older adults in the time taken to step accurately under conditions of increasing cognitive and visual demand. METHODS: Healthy Young (n = 42, mean age 21) and Older (n = 37, mean age 70) participants were required to step accurately on an instrumented walkway under conditions of increasing visual and cognitive demand. Based on the paper-and-pencil neuropsychological test, the Trail Making Test (P-TMT) A and B, participants stepped on instrumented targets with increasing sequential numbers (Walking Trail Making Test A [W-TMT A]) and increasing sequential numbers and letters (Walking Trail Making Test B [W-TMT B]), under conditions of Low as well as Normal lighting. RESULTS: W-TMT performance time increased with increased age (Older vs Young), decreased light (Low vs Normal), and increased cognitive demand (Trails B vs Trails A). W-TMT performance time was disproportionately increased in Low light and in the Older group under the highest cognitive demand (W-TMT B) conditions. Paired W-TMT A-B differences were three times higher in the Older group than in the Young group. In the Older group, the correlation between W-TMT results and P-TMT B was particularly strong (p <.001). CONCLUSIONS: The time to perform a stepping accuracy task, such as may be required to avoid environmental hazards, increases under reduced lighting and with increased cognitive demand, the latter disproportionately so in older adults.

PMID: 16424288 [PubMed - in process]
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Anthony H. Risser | |

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