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Characterizing Change in Postural Stability and Variability during Complex, Whole-body Movements due to Ageing and following an Unexpected Loss of Balance

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Title: Characterizing Change in Postural Stability and Variability during Complex, Whole-body Movements due to Ageing and following an Unexpected Loss of Balance
Author: Huntley, Andrew
Department: Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences
Program: Human Health and Nutritional Sciences
Advisor: Vallis, Lori Ann
Abstract: This dissertation presents the investigation into volitional movement control during complex, multi-plane tasks from both an ageing and reactive control of posture perspective. While the cause of falls in older adults is multifactorial, recent scientific findings have shown a relationship between falls and improper weight transfers during volitional movements. In the past, balance ability and falls risk has been assessed in both clinical and research settings using relatively simple, single plane tasks despite the fact that many activities of daily living that may result in a fall event involve multiple planes of movement, and thus require a single or multiple weight transfers to complete. Two aims were established; the first was to challenge younger and older adults to complete a series of volitional complex, multi-plane goal-directed tasks and identify any age related differences in the movement control patterns used to execute these tasks at different speeds and with different base of support restrictions. The second aim was to generate a baseline set of data for a group of healthy young adults following a support surface perturbation that required a reactive postural control strategy to maintain balance. The current thesis thus is comprised of four studies. Whole-body stability, variability, and motor coordination aspects of movement control were calculated for all tasks. In general, older adults altered motor control patterns and slowed their movement to maintain consistent stability levels. Baseline data for the healthy young adults found that movement variability was greatest during the trip perturbation however this occurred simultaneously with increased stability preceding the perturbation. Collectively, the current work contributes novel findings to the literature specifically by characterizing age related changes in postural control strategies for complex tasks, including some strategies that may place older adults at risk of being unable to effectively respond to any forthcoming postural perturbations, should they occur. A secondary contribution of this dissertation is the foundation of data for a healthy combined volitional and reactionary control of movement task, which provides the basis of much needed reactive control work in older adults to be undertaken.
Date: 2016-08
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