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Gait Posture. 2009 Jul;30(1):16-21. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2009.02.019. Epub 2009 Apr 2.

Vibrotactile tilt feedback improves dynamic gait index: a fall risk indicator in older adults.

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  • 1Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Department of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States.


The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of vibrotactile feedback of body tilt in improving dynamic gait index (DGI) a fall risk indicator in community dwelling older adults. Twelve healthy elderly subjects (three males and nine females, age 79.7+/-5.4 yrs) were tested in an institutional balance rehabilitation laboratory to investigate changes between the feedback off and on conditions. Subjects were acutely exposed to a vibrotactile display that indicated the magnitude and direction of their body tilt from the vertical. DGI and mediolateral (ML) sway were determined during locomotion with, and without, vibrotactile tilt feedback (VTTF). All subjects were at risk for falls based on their initial DGI Score (range: 15-19, mean 17.4+/-1.56), which was taken with the vibratory stimulus turned off. Subjects learned to use the trunk tilt information from the vibrotactile feedback vest through 20-30 min of gait and balance training consisting of activities that challenged their balance. Subjects were then retested on the DGI. Statistically significant changes were demonstrated for the DGI total score while using the vibrotactile tilt feedback. DGI total scores improved from 17.1+/-0.4 to 20.8+/-0.3 (p<0.05). We conclude that vibrotactile tilt feedback improves both control of mediolateral sway during gait and dynamic gait index. Both are fall risk indicators for this population.

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