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J Neurophysiol. 2009 Feb;101(2):948-57. doi: 10.1152/jn.91004.2008. Epub 2008 Dec 10.

Generalization of gait adaptation for fall prevention: from moveable platform to slippery floor.

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Department of Physical Therapy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60612, USA.


A person's ability to transfer the acquired improvements in the control of center of mass (COM) state stability to slips induced in everyday conditions can have profound theoretical and practical implications for fall prevention. This study investigated the extent to which such generalization could take place. A training group (n=8) initially experienced 24 right-side slips in blocked-and-random order (from the 1st unannounced, novel slip, S-1 to the last, S-24) resulting from release of a low-friction moveable platform in walking. They then experienced a single unannounced slip while walking on an oil-lubricated vinyl floor surface (V-T). A control group (n=8) received only one unannounced slip on the same slippery floor (V-C). Results demonstrated that the incidence of balance loss and fall on V-T was comparable to that on S-24. In both trials, fall and balance-loss incidence was significantly reduced in comparison with that on S-1 or on V-C, resulting from significant improvements in the COM state stability. The observed generalization indicates that the control of COM stability can be optimally acquired to accommodate alterations in environmental constraints, and it may be broadly coded and easily modifiable within the CNS. Because of such mechanisms, it is possible that the locomotor-balance skills acquired with the aid of low-friction moveable platforms can translate into resisting falls encountered in daily living.

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