Dual-Task Assessment of Attentional Capacities in Aging and Dementia
This chapter discusses the theoretical background for using dual-task methods to measure human attentional capacities, and describes in detail a microcomputerized dual-task procedure useful in studying elderly individuals. The two tasks in this procedure (pursuit-tracking of a randomly moving target on a videoscreen, and visual monitoring of a stimulus for changes in configuration) are first performed separately and then simultaneously. A decrement in the dual-task performance relative to the single-task conditions suggests that attentional capacities of the individual have been exceeded. Attractive features of this dual-task procedure for psychometric assessments in older individuals include good patient acceptance, minimal equipment and personnel requirements, adaptability to subjects with a wide range of abilities, and the capability for concurrent psychophysiologic measurements such as heart rate. It is predicted that computerized dual-task techniques will become an increasingly important aspect of future cognitive assessments of the elderly.
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