June 5, 2008 A study by Indiana University researchers found a strong connection between the cognitive function of their elderly study participants and their postural stability -- or balance. In the study, a questionnaire designed to probe cognitive function proved effective at identifying people with poorer balance.
Koichi Kitano, lead author and doctoral student in IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, will discuss the study during a poster presentation on Thursday at the American College of Sports Medicine's annual meeting in Indianapolis.
Falls are one of the most common causes of injury and death among the elderly. Motor control experts in the School of HPER's Department of Kinesiology 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 health care providers.
Kitano said the questionnaire used for their study could be conducted and scored by physicians and possibly other health care professionals. Patients could complete the questionnaire in around 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.
The poster presentation is titled "Cognitive function and postural sway among the elderly." Coauthors are Tammy M. Nichols, Rachel A. Britton, David B. Pisoni and David M. Koceja, all from IU Bloomington.
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