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Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research

On-line version ISSN 1414-431X

Abstract

SYLWAN, R.P.; ROSIN, F.M.  and  GALERA, C.. Effect of practice and span length on the dual-task coordination executive test. Braz J Med Biol Res [online]. 1999, vol.32, n.10, pp. 1263-1268. ISSN 1414-431X.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0100-879X1999001000013.

The measure "mu", proposed as an index of the ability to coordinate concurrent box-crossing (BC) and digit-span (DS) tasks in the dual task (DT), should reflect the capacity of the executive component of the working memory system. We investigated the effect of practice in BC and of a change in the digit span on mu by adding previous practice trials in BC and diminishing, maintaining or increasing the digit sequence length. The mu behavior was evaluated throughout three trials of the test. Reported strategies in digit tasks were also analyzed. Subjects with diminished span showed the best performance in DT due to a stable performance in DS and BC in the single- and dual-task conditions. These subjects also showed a more stable performance throughout trials. Subjects with diminished span tended to employ effortless strategies, whereas subjects with increased span employed effort-requiring strategies and showed the lowest means of mu. Subjects with initial practice trials showed the best performance in BC and the most differentiated performance between the single- and dual-task conditions in BC. The correlation coefficient between the mu values obtained in the first and second trials was 0.814 for subjects with diminished span and practice trials in BC. It seems that the within-session practice in BC and the performance variability in DS affect the reliability of the index mu. To control these factors we propose the introduction of previous practice trials in BC and a modification of the current method to determine the digit sequence length. This proposal should contribute to the development of a more reliable method to evaluate the executive capacity of coordination in the dual-task paradigm.

Keywords : dual task; working memory; central executive; digit span; practice.

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