Yoshiro Okubo – Abstract

P09      Motor learning processes in responding to increasingly unpredictable trips and slips in older adults

Okubo Y[1, 2], Sturnieks DL[1, 2], Brodie MA[1, 2], Duran L[1, 3] and Lord SR[1, 2]

  1. Falls, Balance and Injury Research Centre, Neuroscience Research Australia, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. UNSW Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. Department of Human Movement Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Background: Previous studies have reported that older adults can learn to recover from predictable laboratory-induced postural perturbations (often of fixed location and/or type) within a few repetitions. In real-life, however, many postural perturbations are not predictable. We hypothesized older adults could be trained to recover from unpredictable trips and slips, which could form the basis of an effective fall prevention program.

Methods: Nineteen community-dwelling older adults (65+yr) underwent three 40-min training sessions comprising (1) 20 trips, (2) 20 slips and (3) 10 trips and 10 slips in mixed order, over two days (ACTRN12617000564358). Perturbation unpredictability (e.g. hazard location and/or type) was increased within and between sessions. Participants were in a full-body safety harness and peak loading on the harness (normalized to body weight [%BW]) was recorded (reduced loading indicating better recovery). Student paired t-tests were used to compare harness loading between the first and last perturbation of each session.

Results: There was no significant change in harness loading during session 1 (trips only). During session 2, harness loading significantly reduced for slips (16.8±2.5%BW versus 8.2±1.1%BW, p=0.006). During session 3, harness loading significantly reduced for slips (14.6±7.3%BW versus 10.6±8.5%BW, p=0.025) but not trips. During sessions 3, average harness loading during trips was significantly higher than during slips (17.5±11.8%BW versus 12.3±5.1%BW, p=0.018).

Conclusion: Older adults could learn to respond better to unpredictable slips. Effective training for trips with increasing unpredictability may require more sessions or a modified protocol.

  1. Bohm S, Mademli L, Mersmann F, Arampatzis A. Predictive and Reactive Locomotor Adaptability in Healthy Elderly: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports medicine (Auckland, NZ). 2015;45:1759-77.