Do neurocognitive deficits in the evaluation of motor output contribute to falls risk in older adults?

A growing body of evidence suggests that cognitive impairment is a significant contributing factor in the increased incidence of falls among older adults. With that said, the exact neural systems within the brain that underlie an increased risk of falling remain unclear. Recently, it has been suggested that medial-frontal cortex, a region of the brain typically associated with cognitive control, plays an important role in evaluating the success or failure of movement. Therefore, one might assume that the ability of the medial-frontal system to evaluate motor output might be impaired with aging. Functional deficits within the medial-frontal system brought about by aging may result in a reduced ability to evaluate stride and/or balance, and subsequently contribute to the increased incidence of falls observed in older adults. Dr. Olave Krigolson’s current research utilizes neuroimaging techniques to assess the effectiveness of the medial-frontal system in evaluating motor output in two groups of older adults; a group of older adults prone to falling and a group not prone to falling. Dr. Krigolson is testing the hypothesis that evaluation capabilities of the medial-frontal cortex will be diminished in older adults prone to falling compared to the control group. The findings from Dr. Krigolson’s study will improve our understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to the increased propensity for falling evident with increasing age, and will also potentially provide a basis for the development of assessment techniques and interventions to decrease the occurrence of falls in older adults.