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06-11-2017 | Original Article

Exploring the relationship between threat-related changes in anxiety, attention focus, and postural control

Tijdschrift:
Psychological Research
Auteurs:
Kyle J. Johnson, Martin Zaback, Craig D. Tokuno, Mark G. Carpenter, Allan L. Adkin

Abstract

Individuals report directing attention toward and away from multiple sources when standing under height-related postural threat, and these changes in attention focus are associated with postural control modifications. As it is unknown whether these changes generalize to other types of threat situations, this study aimed to quantify changes in attention focus and examine their relationship with postural control changes in response to a direct threat to stability. Eighty young adults stood on a force plate fixed to a translating platform. Three postural threat conditions were created by altering the expectation of, and prior experience with, a postural perturbation: no threat of perturbation, threat without perturbation experience, and threat with perturbation experience. When threatened, participants were more anxious and reported directing more attention to movement processes, threat-related stimuli, and self-regulatory strategies, and less to task-irrelevant information. Postural sway amplitude and frequency increased with threat, with greater increases in frequency and smaller increases in amplitude observed with experience. Without experience, threat-related changes in postural control were accounted for by changes in anxiety; larger changes in anxiety were related to larger changes in sway amplitude. With experience, threat-related postural control changes were accounted for by changes in attention focus; increases in attention to movement processes were related to greater forward leaning and increases in sway amplitude, while increases in attention to self-regulatory strategies were related to greater increases in sway frequency. Results suggest that relationships between threat-related changes in anxiety, attention focus, and postural control depend on the context associated with the threat.

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