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Exp Brain Res. 2011 Mar;209(3):375-84. doi: 10.1007/s00221-011-2560-z. Epub 2011 Feb 4.

Is inefficient multisensory processing associated with falls in older people?

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  • 1School of Psychology, Institute of Neuroscience, Lloyd Building, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland.


Although falling is a significant problem for older persons, little is understood about its underlying causes. Spatial cognition and balance maintenance rely on the efficient integration of information across the main senses. We investigated general multisensory efficiency in older persons with a history of falls compared to age- and sensory acuity-matched controls and younger adults using a sound-induced flash illusion. Older fallers were as susceptible to the illusion as age-matched, non-fallers or younger adults at a short delay of 70 ms between the auditory and visual stimuli. Both older adult groups were more susceptible to the illusion at longer SOAs than younger adults. However, with increasing delays between the visual and auditory stimuli, older fallers did not show a decline in the frequency at which the illusion was experienced even with delays of up to 270 ms. We argue that this relatively higher susceptibility to the illusion reflects inefficient audio-visual processing in the central nervous system and has important implications for the diagnosis and rehabilitation of falling in older persons.

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