Public Release: 

Sub-sensory vibratory noise augments postural control in older adults

Foot sole vibrations lead to better mobility and an increase in the complexity of the postural control system

Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research

BOSTON--May 3, 2016-- Researchers from the Harvard affiliated Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research (IFAR), have published a recent article in the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation which gives evidence that sub-sensory vibrations delivered to the foot sole of older adults significantly augmented the physiologic complexity of postural control and led to improvement in a given mobility assessment. Researchers came to this conclusion by applying vibrating soles to the feet of 12 healthy adults at various sensory thresholds over the course of three visits. After the vibrations were delivered, researchers tested postural sway complexity during eyes open and eyes closed standing assessments. They then evaluated mobility using the timed up and go (TUG) assessment. Findings of the study show that foot sole vibrations at 70 and 85% of sensory threshold increased postural sway complexity. Moreover, these increases correlated with improved TUG times for participants.

When standing, the feet are the only points of contact with the external environment. Therefore, standing postural control is dependent upon the nervous system to detect characteristics of the ground below the foot and deliver that information back to the central nervous system. Vibratory noise increases the sensory input from the foot soles to the postural control system, which leads to greater postural control and improved mobility.

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This study was supported by Merck Sharp and Dohme, the National Institute on Aging (AG025037 and AGO41785) and KL2 Medical Research Investigator Training (MeRIT) award (1KL2RR025757-04) from Harvard Catalyst/The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center (UL1RR025758).

About Institute for Aging Research

Scientists at the Institute for Aging Research seek to transform the human experience of aging by conducting research that will ensure a life of health, dignity and productivity into advanced age. The Institute carries out rigorous studies that discover the mechanisms of age-related disease and disability; lead to the prevention, treatment and cure of disease; advance the standard of care for older people; and inform public decision-making. The Aging Brain Center within IFAR studies cognitive aging and conditions affecting brain health.

About Hebrew SeniorLife

Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, is a national senior services leader uniquely dedicated to rethinking, researching and redefining the possibilities of aging. Based in Boston, the non-profit, non-sectarian organization has provided communities and health care for seniors, research into aging, and education for geriatric care providers since 1903. For more information about Hebrew SeniorLife, visit http://www.hebrewseniorlife.org, follow us on Twitter @H_SeniorLife, like us on Facebook or read our blog.

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