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Research into cognitive-motor double-task training with a smartphone app to improve balance and mobility in older people at risk of falling

Primary Supervisor: Dr Shinyi Chloe Chiou, School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences

Secondary supervisors: Dr Magdalena Chechlacz, School of Psychology

PhD project title: Research into cognitive-motor double-task training with a smartphone app to improve balance and mobility in older people at risk of falling

University of Registration: University of Birmingham

Project outline:

Cognitive decline and balance deterioration are seen with ageing. While they are often viewed as different functions, recent evidence has suggested their bidirectional interaction. For example, people with cognitive impairment can experience deficits in balance control; frailty can exacerbate age-related decline in cognitive function. Research has shown that the ability to maintain postural stability during walking while performing a cognitive task, termed cognitive dual-task walking, predicts fall risks in older people. This highlights the importance of treating both physical and cognitive function to improve health. However, studies using cognitive dual-task training to improve balance in older adults report unequivocal results. This hinders the development of the dual-task training to be used clinically. The inconclusive findings may be due to unclear mechanisms underlying cognitive and balance interactions in ageing. This project aims to address this limitation by examining the extent to which neural modulation of cognitive-motor interaction with ageing using a cognitive dual-task paradigm, followed by an interventional study to determine whether cognitive dual-task training reverses the age-related changes in the neural modulation of cognitive-motor interaction. Research methods used in this project include neuroimaging, non-invasive brain stimulation, peripheral electrical stimulation, electromyography, and behavioural testing. Outcomes of the project will advance our understanding of the mechanisms underlying dual tasking, which is a common human behaviour. Importantly, the study will generate a product to alleviate age-related declines in cognitive function and balance control, supporting the concept of living longer and healthier, and is therefore timely in the context of ageing populations.

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Understanding the Rules of Life: Neuroscience and behaviour & Integrated Understanding of Health: Ageing

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

Methods used in this project include neuroimaging, non-invasive brain stimulation, peripheral electrical stimulation, electromyography, and behavioural testing.

Contact: Dr Shinyi Chloe Chiou,University of Birmingham