Use your brain, improve your (postural) stability? Can cognitive training reduce falls?

Fascinating work spotted by Joe Mills from a team at UIC.

Impact of Cognitive Training on Balance and Gait in Older Adults:

  1. Renae L. Smith-Ray1
  2. Susan L. Hughes1,2
  3. Thomas R. Prohaska3
  4. Deborah M. Little4,
  5. Donald A. Jurivich5 and 
  6. Donald Hedeker1,6
+Author Affiliations

  1. 1 Center for Research on Health and Aging, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago.

  2. 2 Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago.

  3. 3 College of Health and Human Services, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.

  4. 4 VISN 17 Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans, Texas A&M Health Science Center, Waco.

  5. 5 Department of Geriatric Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago and

  6. 6 Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago.
  1. Correspondence should be addressed to Renae L. Smith-Ray, PhD, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1747W Roosevelt Road, Suite 558, Chicago, IL 60608. E-mail: rsmith27@uic.edu.
  • Received February 5, 2013.
  • Accepted August 5, 2013.

Abstract

Objectives. Cognitive processing plays an important role in balance and gait and is a contributing factor to falls in older adults. This relationship may be explained by the fact that higher order cognitive functions such as executive functions are called upon while walking. The purpose of this study was to examine whether a cognitive training intervention leads to significant improvements on measures of balance and gait.
Method. This randomized trial tested whether cognitive training over 10 weeks improves balance and gait in older adults. Participants were randomly assigned to a computer-based cognitive training intervention or measurement-only control. Outcomes included Timed Up and Go (TUG), gait speed, and gait speed with a cognitive distraction. Data were analyzed using analysis of covariance models with change scores.
Results. Participants’ (N = 51) average age was 82.7 for those randomized to intervention and 81.1 for those randomized to control. After 10 weeks, intervention group participants performed significantly better than controls on the TUG. When the cohort was limited to those categorized as slow walkers (baseline 10-m walk ≥ 9 s), intervention participants performed significantly better than controls on TUG and distracted walking.
Discussion. Cognitive training slows degradation of balance and improves gait while distracted, rendering it a promising approach to falls prevention

David G. Armstrong

Dedicated to amputation prevention, wound healing, diabetic foot, biotechnology and the intersection between medical devices and consumer electronics.

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