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Anxiety can impact people's walking direction

January 19, 2016

People experiencing anxiety and inhibition have more activity in the right side of the brain, causing them to walk in a leftward trajectory.

New research led by Dr Mario Weick of the School of Psychology at the University of Kent has for the first time linked the activation of the brain's two hemispheres with lateral shifts in people's walking trajectories.

In a study aimed at establishing why individuals display a tendency to allocate attention unequally across space, people were blindfolded and asked to walk in a straight line across a room towards a previously seen target.

The researchers found evidence that blindfolded individuals who displayed inhibition or anxiety were prone to walk to the left, indicating greater activation in the right hemisphere of the brain.

The research indicates that the brain's two hemispheres are associated with different motivational systems. These relate on the right side to inhibition and on the left to approach.

This is the first time researchers have established a clear link between inhibition and activation in the right side of the brain.

The findings may have implications for the treatment of unilateral neglect, which is a condition caused by a lack of awareness of one side of space. In particular, individuals suffering from right-sided neglect may benefit from interventions to reduce anxiety.

Walking blindfolded unveils unique contributions of behavioural approach and inhibition to lateral spatial bias is published in the journal Cognition.
-end-
Paper co-authors were: John Allen, School of Psychology, University of Kent; Dr Milica Vasiljevic, University of Cambridge; and Dr Bo Yao, University of Manchester. See: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010027715301050

For further information or interview requests contact Martin Herrema at the University of Kent Press Office.


Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879
M.J.Herrema@kent.ac.uk News releases can also be found at http://www.kent.ac.uk/news

University of Kent on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UniKent

Note to editors

Established in 1965, the University of Kent -- the UK's European university -- now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked: third for overall student satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey; 16th in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.kent.ac.uk/about/partnerships/eastern-arc.html).

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

University of Kent

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