AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 2, 2018


Brain Activity May Predict Risk of Falls in Older Adults

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among older Americans and all too often lead to physical decline and loss of independence. Now, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have found that measuring the brain activity of healthy older adults while they are walking and talking can predict their risk of falling. “Previous studies have shown that when older people perform cognitively demanding tasks, their brains are required to become more active to handle the challenge,” says lead author Joe Verghese, MBBS, director of the division of cognitive and motor aging at Einstein and Montefiore Health System and director of the Montefiore Einstein Center for the Aging Brain. “In our study, we asked older people to perform such a task – in this case, talking while walking – and found that people needing the most brain activity to carry it out were more likely than others to fall later on.” According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of every three adults aged 65 and over falls each year, leading to nearly 20,000 deaths. Even when falls do not cause injury, they may cause older people to develop a fear of falling that can limit their activities and reduce their mobility. Those who know they are at risk for falling can take simple measures – removing tripping hazards from their homes, for example – that can substantially reduce the risk of falls. 

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