Learning from laboratory-induced falling: long-term motor retention among older adults
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Falls in older adults are a major health and societal problem. It is thus imperative to develop highly effective training paradigms to reduce the likelihood of falls. Perturbation training is one such emerging paradigm known to induce shorter term fall reduction in healthy young as well as older adults. Its longer term benefits are not fully understood, however. The purpose of this study was to determine whether and to what degree older adults could retain their fall-resisting skills acquired from a single perturbation training session. Seventy-three community-dwelling older adults (≥65 years) received identical single-session perturbation training consisting of 24 slips. This was delivered through unannounced unlocking (and mixed with relocking) of low-friction movable sections of the walkway. A single retest was subsequently scheduled based on a three-stage sequential, pre-post-retest design. Outcome measurements, taken upon the first (novel) and the 24th (final) slips of the initial session and the retest slip, included fall-or-no-fall and stability (quantified by the shortest distance from relative motion state of the center-of-mass and the base-of-support to the limits of stability) at instants prior to (proactive) and after (reactive) the onset of the slip. The training boosted subjects’ resilience against laboratory-induced falls demonstrated by a significant reduction from 42.5 % falls on the first slip to 0 % on the 24th slip. Rate of falls which occurred during the laboratory retest remained low in 6-month (0 %), 9-month (8.7 %), and 12-month retest (11.5 %), with no significant difference between the three time intervals. Such reduction of laboratory-induced falls and its retention were attributable to the significant training-induced improvement in the proactive and reactive control of stability. This unique pre-post-retest design enabled us to provide scientific basis for the feasibility of a single session of perturbation training to “inoculate” older adults and to reduce their annual risk of falls in everyday living.
KeywordsStability control Motor memory Resilience Inoculation Perturbation training
This work was supported by grants from the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH 2RO1-AG16727 and RO1-AG029616). The authors would like to thank Dr. Karen Adolph for her thoughtful comments and Dr. Debbie Espy for assisting in data collection and processing.
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