Movement Planning, Impulse Control, and Forward Head Posture

Rajal Cohen, Psychology and Communications Studies

Carrying the head forward of the spine contributes to multiple health problems, including neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, and, in older adults, increased fall risk and mortality. Approaches that focus on environmental factors have been only partly successful at alleviating forward head posture (FHP). Therefore, it is important to consider other possible factors, including cognitive influences. In this project I will investigate the hypothesis that FHP is exacerbated by failure to suppress an impulse to move the head toward a goal.

Being urged to move quickly increases the tendency to respond impulsively. Therefore, I will ask participants to reach toward a target at several speeds. FHP will be quantified as head-neck angle during target contact. I will also test participants’ impulsivity in a computer task. If impulse control failures contribute to FHP, then FHP should correlate with impulsivity scores and increase with movement speed. Results supporting these hypotheses would suggest that training impulse control in the context of movement may be useful for reducing FHP, possibly in combination with ergonomic interventions.

Expected outcomes include publication in a peer-reviewed journal and submission of an external grant proposal.