Research on the relationship between attention and the control of posture and gait is a new and expanding area with studies on young adults revealing the role of cognitive factors in the control of balance during standing and walking. The use of dual task paradigms to examine the effect of age related changes in attentional requirements of balance control and age-related reductions in stability when performing a secondary task has shown that these are important contributors to instability in both healthy and balance-impaired older adults. The attentional demands of balance control vary depending on the complexity of the task and the type of secondary task being performed. New clinical assessment methods incorporating dual-task paradigms are helpful in revealing the effect of disease (e.g. Parkinson's disease) on the ability to allocate attention to postural tasks and appear to be sensitive measures in both predicting fall risk and in documenting recovery of stability.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science B.V.