Successful balance training is associated with improved multisensory function in fall-prone older adults

Niamh Merriman, Caroline Whyatt, Annalisa Setti, Cathy Craig, Fiona Newell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Balance maintenance relies on a complex interplay between many different sensory modalities. Although optimal multisensory processing is thought to decline with ageing, inefficient integration is particularly associated with falls in older adults. We investigated whether improved balance control, following a
novel balance training intervention, was associated with more efficient multisensory integration in older adults, particularly those who have fallen in the past. Specifically, 76 healthy and fall-prone older adults were allocated to either a balance training programme conducted over 5 weeks or to a passive control
condition. Balance training involved a VR display in which the on-screen position of a target object was controlled by shifts in postural balance on a Wii balance board. Susceptibility to the sound-induced flash illusion, before and after the intervention (or control condition), was used as a measure of multisensory function. Whilst balance and postural control improved for all participants assigned to the Intervention group, improved functional balance was correlated with more efficient multisensory processing in the fall-prone older adults only. Our findings add to growing evidence suggesting important links between balance control and multisensory interactions in the ageing brain and have implications for the development of interventions designed to reduce the risk of falls.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-203
Number of pages12
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Early online date27 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


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