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Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA
Abstract:   (263 Views)

  • Instructions that differ in complexity and attention direction can distinctly affect heart rate during the performance of a continuous balancing task.
  • External focus instructions led to a more rapid decrease in heart rate during task performance compared to internal focus instructions.
  • The average heart rate was lowest in the condition with the least complex instructions.
  • Practitioners should limit instructional complexity to avoid negative physiological responses.

Background: Contemporary theories propose that adopting an external focus of attention allows the body’s system to self-organize, resulting in more efficient and automated control of motor behavior. In that context, our purpose in this study was to measure heart rate to test whether altering focus of attention would elicit a physiologic response during a static balancing task.
Method: Twenty-three college aged participants (M = 23.3 ± 5.63 years) balanced on an AccuSway Balance Platform while performing a secondary supra-postural task. Center of pressure (COP) and heart rate was measured throughout each trial. Participants completed three baseline trials followed by three trials in each of two experimental conditions presented in a counterbalanced order. In the baseline trials, participants were instructed to “maintain your balance to the best of your ability.” Internal focus (IF) instructions were “focus on minimizing movement of your hand, while maintaining your balance to the best of your ability.” External focus (EF) instructions were “focus on minimizing movement of the sheet, while maintaining balance to the best of your ability.”
Results: Results indicated: (a) a significant change in heart rate during trials in all conditions, p < .001, (b) a significantly lower heart rate for trials completed in the baseline condition compared to trials completed under either the IF or EF instructional set, p < .001, and (c) a significantly more rapid lowering in heart rate during trials completed under EF instructions compared to IF instructions, p < .001. There were no significant differences in the COP between any of the conditions (p >0.05).
Conclusion: The results of this study demonstrate that the
complexity and attentional direction of instructions may differentially influence heart rate responses during motor performance. Further explanations and implications for future research are discussed.

Type of Study: Original Article | Subject: 1. Motor learning
Received: 2022/03/9 | Accepted: 2022/04/14 | Published: 2022/05/5

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