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  • Author: William A. Sparrow x
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William A. Sparrow, Rezaul K. Begg and Suzanne Parker

Visual reaction time (RT) was measured in 10 older men (mean age, 71.1 years) and gender-matched controls (mean age, 26.3 years) when standing (single task) and when walking on a motor-driven treadmill (dual task). There were 90 quasirandomly presented trials over 15 min in each condition. Longer mean and median RTs were observed in the dual task compared to the single task. Older males had significantly slower mean and median RTs (315 and 304 ms, respectively) than the younger group (273 and 266 ms, respectively) in both task conditions. There were no age or condition effects on within-subject variability. Both groups showed a trend of increasing RT over the 90 single task trials but when walking only the younger group slowed. These novel findings demonstrate high but sustained attention by older adults when walking. It is proposed that the motor task’s attentional demands might contribute to their slower preferred walking speed.

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Walter E. Davis, William A. Sparrow and Terry Ward

A fractionation technique was employed to determine the locus of reaction time delay in Down syndrome (DS) and other adult subjects with mental retardation (MH). Twenty-three subjects (8 nondisabled, 8 MH, and 7 DS) responded to a light, sound, and combination light/sound signal. Dependent measures of premotor time, motor time, total reaction time, and movement time were obtained during a 20° elbow extension movement and were analyzed separately. As expected, both MH and DS subjects were slower and more variable in their responses than the subjects without disabilities. In turn, DS subjects were significantly slower but not more variable than the MH subjects. There were no significant differences between the DS and MH subjects on movement times. Evidence for both a specific (premotor) and a generalized (both premotor and motor) locus of delay was found. Some difference in signal effect was also found for the DS subjects.

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Hanatsu Nagano, Rezaul K. Begg, William A. Sparrow and Simon Taylor

Although lower limb strength becomes asymmetrical with age, past studies of aging effects on gait biomechanics have usually analyzed only one limb. This experiment measured how aging and treadmill surface influenced both dominant and nondominant step parameters in older (mean 74.0 y) and young participants (mean 21.9 y). Step-cycle parameters were obtained from 3-dimensional position/time data during preferred-speed walking for 40 trials along a 10 m walkway and for 10 minutes of treadmill walking. Walking speed (young 1.23 m/s, older 1.24 m/s) and step velocity for the two age groups were similar in overground walking but older adults showed significantly slower walking speed (young 1.26 m/s, older 1.05 m/s) and step velocity on the treadmill due to reduced step length and prolonged step time. Older adults had shorter step length than young adults and both groups reduced step length on the treadmill. Step velocity and length of older adults’ dominant limb was asymmetrically larger. Older adults increased the proportion of double support in step time when treadmill walking. This adaptation combined with reduced step velocity and length may preserve balance. The results suggest that bilateral analyses should be employed to accurately describe asymmetric features of gait especially for older adults.

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William A. Sparrow, Alison J. Shinkfield, Ross H. Day, Sarah Hollitt and Damien Jolley

Recognizing a class of movements as belonging to a “nominal” action category, such as walking, running, or throwing, is a fundamental human ability. Three experiments were undertaken to test the hypothesis that common (“prototypical”) features of moving displays could be learned by observation. Participants viewed moving stick-figure displays resembling forearm flexion movements in the saggital plane. Four displays (presentation displays) were first presented in which one or more movement dimensions were combined with 2 respective cues: direction (up, down), speed (fast, slow), and extent (long, short). Eight test displays were then shown, and the observer indicated whether each test display was like or unlike those previously seen. The results showed that without corrective feedback, a single cue (e.g., up or down) could be correctly recognized, on average, with the proportion correct between .66 and .87. When two cues were manipulated (e.g., up and slow), recognition accuracy remained high, ranging between .72 and .89. Three-cue displays were also easily identified. These results provide the first empirical demonstration of action-prototype learning for categories of human action and show how apparently complex kinematic patterns can be categorized in terms of common features or cues. It was also shown that probability of correct recognition of kinematic properties was reduced when the set of 4 presentation displays were more variable with respect to their shared kinematic property, such as speed or amplitude. Finally, while not conclusive, the results (from 2 of the 3 experiments) did suggest that similarity (or “likeness”) with respect to a common kinematic property (or properties) is more easily recognized than dissimilarity.

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Rob van der Straaten, Oren Tirosh, William A. (Tony) Sparrow and Rezaul Begg

Minimum toe clearance (MTC ∼10–30 mm) is a hazardous mid-swing gait event, characterized by high-foot velocity (∼4.60 m·s−1) and single-foot support. This experiment tested treadmill-based gait training effects on MTC. Participants were 10 young (4 males and 6 females) and 10 older (6 males and 4 females) healthy ambulant individuals. The mean age, stature, and body mass for the younger group was 23 (2) years, 1.72 (0.10) m, and 67.5 (8.3) kg, and for older adults was 77 (9) years, 1.64 (0.10) m, and 71.1 (12.2) kg. Ten minutes of preferred speed treadmill walking (baseline) was followed by 20 minutes with MTC information (feedback) and 10 minutes without feedback (retention). There were no aging effects on MTC in baseline or feedback. The MTC in baseline for older adults was 14.2 (3.5) mm and feedback 27.5 (8.7) mm, and for the younger group, baseline was 12.7 (2.6) mm and feedback 28.8 (5.1) mm, respectively. Retention MTC was significantly higher for both groups, indicating a positive effect of augmented information: younger 40.8 (7.3) mm and older 27.7 (13.6) mm. Retention joint angles relative to baseline indicated that the young modulated joint angles control MTC differently using increased ankle dorsiflexion at toe off and modulating knee and hip angles later in swing closer to MTC.