Attentional demands associated with postural control depend on task difficulty and visual condition

J Mot Behav. 2012;44(5):329-40. doi: 10.1080/00222895.2012.708680. Epub 2012 Aug 30.


The authors aimed to assess the effect of vision on variations in attentional resources allocated to postural control during tasks of various levels of difficulty. Test-retest reliability of postural and cognitive parameters was also evaluated. Twenty adults stood quietly on a force platform during 30-s trials (primary task). Twelve conditions involving combinations of three bases of support, two vision conditions, and the presence or absence of a simple reaction time task (secondary task) were tested. Baseline trials of the reaction time task were also performed with the participants seated. Reaction time and postural parameters demonstrated good to excellent test-retest reliability in most conditions. Postural control was altered by the reduction of the base of support and by the absence of vision. Maintaining an upright stance increased reaction time compared with a seated position, indicating that quiet standing tasks required some attention even in young adults. Changes in postural steadiness were correlated with changes in reaction time, showing a significant relationship between the difficulty of the postural task and the attentional resources allocated to postural control. However, reaction time increased with the reduction of the base of support only without vision. This dual task paradigm showed that vision can compensate for the increase in attentional demands during the most difficult postural tasks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Feedback, Sensory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Field Dependence-Independence
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Verbal Learning
  • Visual Perception*
  • Young Adult