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Research model may one day 'inoculate' elderly against slip-related falls
Date:2/4/2009

BETHESDA, Md. (Feb 4, 2009) - Training people to avoid falls by repeatedly exposing them to unstable situations in the laboratory helped them to later maintain their balance on a slippery floor, according to new research from the Journal of Neurophysiology.

The study furthered the understanding of how the brain develops fall prevention strategies that can be generalized to a variety of conditions. The research could eventually help people, including the elderly, for whom falling is an important health issue.

The study, "Generalization of gait adaptation for fall prevention: from moveable platform to slippery floor," is published online by The American Physiological Society. Tanvi Bhatt and Yi-Chung (Clive) Pai, of the University of Illinois at Chicago carried out the study.

Will training transfer?

The researchers used a moveable platform which could be operated to disrupt a person's balance. Previous studies had shown that people could quickly learn to maintain balance and avoid a fall with a short training period on the platform. In this study, the researchers wanted to see whether training on the platform could transfer to prevent a fall on a slippery floor.

Dr. Pai, who teaches in the department of physical therapy and whose work has been supported by National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging, said he aims to train people to maintain balance in the face of a situation that could cause a slip-related fall.

In the study, eight participants trained on the moveable platform for a total of 37 times. The low-friction platform was set up so that it released unannounced, 24 of those times. This release created a low-friction condition to cause a frontward or backward slip. The platform does not allow the foot to slip from side to side, as would be the case in a real-life fall.

The participants wore a harness to record the amount of assistance needed to catch them when th
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Contact: Christine Guilfoy
cguilfoy@the-aps.org
301-634-7253
American Physiological Society
Source:Eurekalert

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