The present study compared the automaticity levels of persons who stutter (PWS) and persons who do not stutter (PNS) on a practiced finger sequencing task under dual task conditions. Automaticity was defined as the amount of attention required for task performance [Parasuraman, R. (1998). The attentive brain. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press]. Twelve PWS and 12 control subjects practiced finger tapping sequences under single and then dual task conditions. Control subjects performed the sequencing task significantly faster and less variably under single versus dual task conditions while PWS' performance was consistently slow and variable (comparable to the dual task performance of control subjects) under both conditions. Control subjects were significantly more accurate on a colour recognition distracter task than PWS under dual task conditions. These results suggested that control subjects transitioned to quick, accurate and increasingly automatic performance on the sequencing task after practice, while PWS did not. Because most stuttering treatment programs for adults include practice and automatization of new motor speech skills, findings of this finger sequencing study and future studies of speech sequence learning may have important implications for how to maximize stuttering treatment effectiveness. Educational objectives: As a result of this activity, the participant will be able to: (1) Define automaticity and explain the importance of dual task paradigms to investigate automaticity; (2) Relate the proposed relationship between motor learning and automaticity as stated by the authors; (3) Summarize the reviewed literature concerning the performance of PWS on dual tasks; and (4) Explain why the ability to transition to automaticity during motor learning may have important clinical implications for stuttering treatment effectiveness. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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