Brain responds to start of fall faster when both feet are grounded

Using an electroencephalogram, recent study results showed, well before muscles react, many areas of the brain sense and respond to a fall.

“We’re using an EEG in a way others don’t, to look at what’s going on inside the brain,” Daniel Ferris, a professor in kinesiology at the University of Michigan, stated. “We were able to determine what parts of the brain first identify when you are losing your balance during walking.”

Researchers measured electrical activity in different regions of the brain of 26 healthy young participants while they performed heel-to-toe walking on a treadmill-mounted balance beam, as well as a treadmill belt.

Using a method called independent component analysis (ICA), the researchers identified clusters of electrocortical EEG sources in different parts of the brain and found the participants sensed the start of a fall better when both feet were on the ground. According to study results, this is because individuals are less sure of their stability on one foot compared to when both feet are on the ground.

According to the researchers, future studies comparing reaction times in the elderly with younger individuals could determine if the elderly sense a fall too late.

For more information:

Sipp AR. Journal of Neurophysiology. 2013;doi:10.1152/jn.00744.2012.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

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