Postural prioritization defines the interaction between a reaction time task and postural perturbations

Exp Brain Res. 2007 Dec;183(4):447-56. doi: 10.1007/s00221-007-1065-2. Epub 2007 Aug 10.


Concurrent demands for postural and cognitive control processes are now known to induce interference, e.g., information processing speed may decrease during postural adjustment. It is less clear whether postural control may, at least in many situations, take precedence over cognitive control ("postural prioritization"). The purpose of this study was to determine if postural dual-task effects are the result of a postural prioritization effect. Twelve young subjects (6 female; 24.1 +/- 4.1) performed a discrete choice reaction time (RT) task in combination with a platform perturbation. To assess the effect of postural prioritization on RT and center of pressure (COP) parameters, destabilizing perturbations were randomly interspersed with non-destabilizing perturbations. Furthermore, stimulus order and the time interval of the RT stimulus relative to the platform perturbation were manipulated. COP and RT data obtained in these manipulations were compared to single-task baseline data. The results suggested that, irrespective of the degree of threat to postural stability, postural task processes are prioritized. Furthermore, anticipation of a postural stimulus negatively affects RT. However, once a perturbation commences subsequent RTs are speeded. Postural reactions were unaffected by a concurrent RT task, however. The RT stimulus acted as a cue to initiate biomechanical adaptations for an upcoming perturbation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Vestibular Function Tests
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology
  • Vibration
  • Visual Perception