Falls in the older population continue to be a major medical and public health concern in the US. Emerging evidence is suggesting that higher cognitive processes impact gait and balance in older adults. The goal of this research is to enhance understanding of how executive control of perception and action is associated with balance and locomotion in older adults. Specifically, attentional control of perceptual interference and inhibition of competing actions during standing and walking will be investigated. Our first main hypothesis is that inhibition/facilitation processes influence postural control in older adults through the modulation and integration of sensory information. We will conduct dual-task experiments during standing and walking that include information processing (IP) tasks with specific sensory requirements. These experiments will explore the mutual influence (inhibitory and facilitory) of sensory information used in IP tasks and postural control. Our second main hypothesis is that inhibitory function in older adults, measured through a newly developed neuropsychological test, will be associated with the ability to perform sensory integration under sensory conflict conditions during standing and walking. We will examine these relationships in older adults with varying levels of mobility and balance to gain a better understanding of the influence of the aging process on this relationship.

Public Health Relevance

Falls in older adults continue to be a major medical and public health concern in the US, with more than 1/3 of older adults (>65 years) falling each year, resulting in the leading cause of injury death, fractures, and traumatic brain injury. Emerging evidence is suggesting that higher cognitive processes impact gait and balance and linked to falls. This study focuses on a specific aspect of cognition that may play an important role;specifically perceptual inhibition and the sensory integration process for postural control i older adults. If successful, this study will lead to an understanding of a critical process in balance and mobility of older adults, and potentially provide a clinically useful assessment of an important process supporting postural health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation Sciences Study Section (MRS)
Program Officer
Chen, Wen G
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University of Pittsburgh
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Redfern, Mark S; Chambers, April J; Jennings, J Richard et al. (2017) Sensory and motoric influences on attention dynamics during standing balance recovery in young and older adults. Exp Brain Res 235:2523-2531
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