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The development of an ecologically valid test of divided attention
Brain Impairment, 5 (suppl), 2004, pp.51-52. Talk at Meeting of the Australian Society for the Study of Brain Impairment (ASSBI) and the International Neuropsychological Society (INS), 7-10 July, Brisbane, Australia
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After acquired brain injury many people complain that they find it difficult to do more than one thing at a time. This has serious implications for rehabilitation and everyday life. We have developed a new, ecologically based test battery to assess divided attention and produced a tool to accurately measure the decrement between performance of single and dual tasks. Both cognitive and motor tasks are included in the new test. Our results have important implications for the assessment, treatment and management of problems of divided attention. In this paper we provide clinical examples to illustrate some of the interesting findings in these areas that emerged during the study. As predicted, there was a significant difference in the decrement between the patient and control groups in all subtests. However, there were also differences in resource allocation between the groups, that is, which task was prioritised or sacrificed. We also demonstrated that even those patients who could carry out two tasks simultaneously found it more difficult to sustain their attention in tests involving the more demanding cognitive task. We looked at differences in performance between the different diagnostic groups, as well as the effects of age, gender and IQ. Some useful treatment ideas and strategies emerged, for example, many found that engagement in a repetitive motor task facilitated their concentration on a demanding cognitive task. These findings can be directly transferred to rehabilitation and everyday situations, to enable people to manage impairments in divided attention more successfully.