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Perception of the Postural Vertical and Falls in Older People


Menant, JC and St George, RJ and Ftizpatrick, RC and Lord, SR, Perception of the Postural Vertical and Falls in Older People, Gerontology, 58, (6) pp. 497-503. ISSN 0304-324X (2012) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

2012 S. Karger AG, Basel

DOI: doi:10.1159/000339295


Background: Research on the relationship between vestibular function and falls in older people is sparse. The perception of the postural vertical (PPV) provides an indicator measure of vestibular (otolith) function in the absence of visual input and diminished somatosensory feedback.

Objective: This study examined whether impaired PPV is associated with falls in this group.

Methods: One hundred and ninety-five people aged 70 plus years stood blindfolded on a motorised platform that could be tilted in the roll plane and attempted to adjust it so that their bodies were aligned to the vertical. Somatosensory feedback was minimised as the base and vertical support surfaces on the tilting platform were covered in thick soft foam rubber. PPV error from true vertical and PPV variability () were calculated. Participants also underwent an assessment of distal tactile sensitivity and the physiological profile assessment (PPA); fallers were defined as those who had one or more falls during a prospective 12-month follow-up period.

Results: Eighty-eight participants (45%) reported falling in the follow-up year. Increased PPV error and variability were correlated with increased lateral sway in a condition of absent visual input and reduced foot somatosensory feedback (eyes closed/foam; r range = 0.160.20, p < 0.05) and with composite PPA fall risk scores (r range = 0.220.26, p < 0.05). PPV variability was a significant and independent predictor of falls after adjusting for the composite PPA scores, age and gender [adjusted RR = 1.42 (1.011.98)].

Conclusions: Older people with increased PPV variability are at increased risk of falls. These findings indicate that assessment of PPV may augment fall risk assessments in older people.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:vestibular, falls, age
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Sports science and exercise
Research Field:Motor control
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Clinical health
Objective Field:Clinical health not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:St George, RJ (Dr Rebecca St George)
ID Code:116318
Year Published:2012
Web of Science® Times Cited:16
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2017-05-05
Last Modified:2017-11-06

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