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Neuroreport. 2002 Oct 28;13(15):1853-6.

Noise-enhanced balance control in older adults.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University, 44 Cummington St, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Somatosensory information is critical to balance control and fall prevention in older adults. Recently, it has been shown that low-level input noise (electrical or mechanical) can enhance the sensitivity of the human somatosensory system. In this study, we tested the effect of low-level electrical noise, applied at the knee, on balance control in 13 healthy elderly volunteers. Subjects performed multiple single-legged stance trials with imperceptible electrical noise applied at the knee during half of the trials. Balance performance was characterized using a force platform to measure the displacement of the center of pressure (COP) under the subject's stance foot. Seven sway parameters were extracted from the COP time series. Improved balance was defined as a reduction in postural sway as indicated by decreases in the COP measures. Six of the seven sway parameters decreased with electrical noise. Three of these parameters decreased significantly ( < 0.05), and a fourth parameter was borderline significant. Averaged across subjects, the application of electrical noise resulted in a 3.8% reduction in mediolateral COP standard deviation ( = 0.04), a 5.4% decrease in the maximum anteroposterior COP excursion ( = 0.03), a 3.1% reduction in the COP path length ( = 0.04), and a 7.8% decrease in swept area ( = 0.05). The results suggest that imperceptible electrical noise, when applied to the knee, can enhance the balance performance of healthy older adults. These findings suggest that electrical noise-based devices may be effective in improving balance control in elderly people.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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