Dynamic balance control—characterised as movement of the trunk and lower limbs—was assessed during fixation of a fixed target, smooth pursuits and saccadic eye movements in ten young (22.9 ± 1.5 years) and ten older (72.1 ± 8.2 years) healthy females walking overground. Participants were presented with visual stimuli to initiate eye movements, and posture and gaze were assessed with motion analysis and eye tracking equipment. The results showed an increase in medial/lateral (ML) trunk movement (C7: p = 0.012; sacrum: p = 0.009) and step-width variability (p = 0.052) during smooth pursuits compared to a fixed target, with no changes for saccades compared to a fixed target. The elders demonstrated greater ML trunk movement (sacrum: p = 0.037) and step-width variability (p = 0.037) than the younger adults throughout, although this did not interact with the eye movements. The findings showed that smooth pursuits decreased balance control in young and older adults similarly, which was likely a consequence of more complicated retinal flow. Since healthy elders are typically already at a postural disadvantage, further decreases in balance caused by smooth pursuits are undesirable.
Experimental Brain Research – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 3, 2017
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