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Changes in posture alter the attentional demands of voluntary movement.

  • R G Carson
  • R Chua
  • W D Byblow
  • P Poon
  • C J Smethurst
Publication Date
Apr 22, 1999


Two simple experiments reveal that the ease with which an action is performed by the neuromuscular-skeletal system determines the attentional resources devoted to the movement. Participants were required to perform a primary task, consisting of rhythmic flexion and extension movements of the index finger, while being paced by an auditory metronome, in one of two modes of coordination: flex on the beat or extend on the beat. Using a classical dual-task methodology, we demonstrated that the time taken to react to an unpredictable visual probe stimulus (the secondary task) by means of a pedal response was greater when the extension phase of the finger movement sequence was made on the beat of the metronome than when the flexion phase was coordinated with the beat. In a second experiment, the posture of the wrist was manipulated in order to alter the operating lengths of muscles that flex and extend the index finger. The attentional demands of maintaining the extend-on-the-beat pattern of coordination were altered in a systematic fashion by changes in wrist posture, even though the effector used to respond to the visual probe stimulus was unaffected.

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