The effect of perturbation warning on attention switching abilities during dual-task performance in young and older adults
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This study examined whether providing an auditory warning would facilitate attention switching abilities in older adults during dual-tasking. Fifteen young and 16 older adults performed a tracking task while recovering their balance from a support surface translation. For half of the trials, an auditory warning was presented to inform participants of the upcoming translation. Performance was quantified through electromyographic (EMG) recordings of the lower limb muscles, while the ability to switch attention between tasks was determined by tracking task error. Providing warning of an upcoming loss of balance resulted in both young and older adults increasing their leg EMG activity by 10-165% (p<0.05) in preparation for the upcoming translation. However, no differences in the timing of attention switching were observed with or without the warning (p=0.424). Together, these findings suggest that providing a perturbation warning has minimal benefits in improving attention switching abilities for balance recovery in healthy older adults.