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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: NUTRITIONAL MODULATION OF GAIT AND COGNITION IN AGING
2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Establish the effects of nutritional modulation (e.g., berry fruit) on behavioral (e.g., cognition, gait, force and balance) and neuronal deficits in aging to assess the mechanisms involved and the most effective dietary supplements in animal and human models.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Conduct studies using a specialized Noraxon treadmill in order to measure parameters of gait including balance, stepping up and down, and walking patterns in humans. These new studies will allow us to focus on more subtle variations in gait that include stride to stride fluctuations (e.g., symmetry) and associated alterations in electromyography (EMG). The Noraxon measurement system allows an objective kinematic analysis of the human gait by means of analyzing the tracks of body surface markers. Additionally, cognition will be measured with a battery of tests that measure memory and vigilance.


3.Progress Report:

Functional changes in the brain and motor neurons during aging can alter learning and memory, gait, and balance - in some cases leading to early cognitive decline, disability, or injurious falls among older adults. Age-related alterations in balance, gait, and cognition were examined in men and women from five age groups (21-40, 41-50, 51-60, 61-65, 66-70, and 71-75 years of age). Results show age-related declines in balance, gait, and cognition are measurable in adults as early as their 50’s. Adults older than 50 years of age showed increased postural sway when asked to stand as still as possible, an effect that increased when participants were asked to close their eyes. Similarly, adults older than 50 years of age showed measureable decreases in maximum and preferred walking speed. They also spent an increased percent of each gait cycle with both feet in contact with the treadmill on which they were assessed; while this may be a result of slower walking speeds it may also be a reaction to increased postural instability. Cognitive testing revealed linear declines in performance when learning a spatial navigation task with measurable declines evident in adults older than 40 years of age. A test of executive function revealed declines in those older than 50 years of age. These findings are important because they confirm the types of age-related declines seen in older adults and provide an age-range during which these declines present. Monitoring is through meetings and progress reports. We are currently writing a manuscript for publication detailing these results.


Last Modified: 12/19/2014
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