Journal article

Effects of attentional focus on postural sway in children and adults

The present study examined, in children aged 4-11 and in adults, the postural control modifications when attention was oriented voluntary on postural sway. Since (1) there are less attentional resources in children than in adults, (2) the selective attention processing improves with age, i.e., children use a different strategy to focus their attention than adults, and (3) adults' postural stability decreases when attention is focused on postural sway, we hypothesized that postural stability was less affected in children than in adults when attention was focused on postural sway. Fourty four children aged 4- to 11-year-old and 11 adults participated in the experiments. The postural control task was executed in a Romberg position. Two experimental conditions were presented to the subjects, (1) to look at a video on a TV screen without instruction about the posture, and (2) to fixate a cross placed at the center of the TV screen with the instruction to remain as stable as possible. Postural performance was measured by means of a force platform. Results from this study (1) confirmed a non-monotonic improvement of postural stability during the ontogenetic period without reaching the adults' level at the age of 11, (2) suggested that children, aged 4-11, are able to focus their attention on the control of posture, and (3) showed that the automatic control of posture increases postural stability since the age of 4.

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