June 3, 2008 — A study entitled “Cognitive function and postural sway among the elderly” by Indiana University researchers found a strong connection between the cognitive function of their elderly study participants and their postural stability — or balance.
The study, which is in line with recent findings by other researchers involving the brain and balance, also found a brief questionnaire designed to probe cognitive function effective at identifying people with poorer balance.
Falls are one of the most common causes of injury and death among the elderly. Motor control experts at Indiana University’s School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER) are searching for a way to alert the elderly to when they become more at risk for falls before the falls occur — ideally developing a screening technique that can be conducted by physicians or other healthcare providers.
Koichi Kitano, a doctoral student in the School of HPER’s Department of Kinesiology and lead author of the study, said the questionnaire used for their study could be conducted and scored by physicians and possibly other healthcare professionals. Patients could complete the questionnaire in about 15 minutes.
“It’s an accessible, easy tool to identify people with risk,” he said. Kitano said IU researchers want to continue their research with larger numbers of people and more diverse populations—the current study involved 28 residents ranging in age from 80 to 90.
Researchers at the School of HPER are also looking into stretches and exercises that could help the elderly improve their balance. Kitano said, however, that cognitive exercises might be even more effective. To read more about their efforts, visit http://newsinfo.iu.edu/web/page/normal/6532.html and http://newsinfo.iu.edu/tips/page/normal/6741.html.
Source: Indiana University, www.iu.edu