Effect of Attentional Focus Instructions on Motor Learning and Performance of Patients with Central Nervous System and Musculoskeletal Disorders: a Systematic Review

J Funct Morphol Kinesiol. 2018 Jul 25;3(3):40. doi: 10.3390/jfmk3030040.


Exercise is one of the main rehabilitative interventions, commonly used to improve performance and motor learning. During the application of attentional focus strategies, External Focus of Attention (EFA) aiming at the movement effect has been reported to have more efficacy than Internal Focus of Attention (IFA) aiming at movement characteristics in healthy subjects. There are not many studies that compare the EFA and IFA instructions in people with Musculoskeletal (MSK) and Central Nervous System disorders (CNS). The purpose of this systematic review is to determine if IFA or EFA, in patients with CNS or MSK, may improve performance and have some effects on motor learning. Databases used for research: PubMed, CINAHL, Cochrane Library, PEDro, PsycINFO, SCOPUS. Inclusion criteria: Randomized Controlled Trial, quasi-Randomized Controlled Trial, enrolled subjects with CNS or with MSK and compared the efficacy of EFA and IFA. The studies suggest that the EFA is better than IFA in affecting the movement execution in patients with MSK, while conflicted findings emerge in presence of CNS disorders. Studies included in the qualitative analysis showed heterogeneous methodological features in study design and conductance, so results must be interpreted with caution.

Keywords: attentional focus; exercise therapy; motor learning; performance.

Publication types

  • Review