The use of a dual task protocol has the potential to enhance performance and learning of a novel motor skill, although the neurological mechanisms behind this are not currently understood. The aim of this research was to establish whether a simple dual task protocol enhanced performance and learning of a novel continuous motor skill, and whether the effects of the dual task on neurological responses could be inferred from the haemodynamic response within the prefrontal cortex. Five studies were conducted to investigate the effects of a simple dual task on novel skill performance, to assess the validity and reliability of a single position near infrared spectroscopy device to measure the haemodynamic response in the prefrontal cortex, to examine the effects of a simple dual task protocol on novel skill learning and to determine whether the mechanisms behind the dual task responses could be inferred from the haemodynamic response in the prefrontal cortex. The findings of this research indicated that dual tasks do not aid novel skill performance, however training in a simple dual task condition is beneficial to skill learning. Furthermore, improved performance after training in a dual task condition was maintained for four weeks following the end of training. The findings also indicated that whilst there is some evidence to support the validity of single position near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) for determining haemodynamic changes in the prefrontal cortex the validity of this measure could not be fully established. Furthermore, although within day reliability of the single position NIRS was acceptable, between day reliability was poor. The neural mechanisms behind the responses to the dual task protocols were not established, although there was initial evidence to suggest that training in a more challenging dual task condition induces a greater level of mental effort and is less beneficial to skill learning. In conclusion, a simple dual task protocol can enhance motor skill learning and whilst single position near infrared spectroscopy may have some benefits for assessing haemodynamic responses to a cognitive stimulus, the validity and reliability of this device have not been fully established.
|Date of Award||18 Feb 2021|
|Supervisor||Stewart Cotterill (Supervisor), Hazel J Brown (Supervisor) & James Faulkner (Supervisor)|
- Skill learning
- Cerebral blood flow
- Skill performance