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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Location: Boston, Massachusetts

2011 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, steady gait, and balance - in some cases leading to early cognitive decline, disability, or injurious falls among older adults. We are exploring age-related alterations in balance, gait, and cognition in men and women from five age groups (21-40, 41-50, 51-60, 61-65, 66-70, and 71-75 years of age). Preliminary results show age-related declines in balance, gait, and cognition starting in the 46-59 age group, with older adults showing increased sway (particularly when vision is impaired), increased variance in walking parameters but decreased walking speeds, less efficient executive function and spatial learning. 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. During this year, additional participants were recruited into the study. Furthermore, this study will direct our future studies by providing a comprehensive methodology for assessing the impact of nutritional interventions on mobility and memory function during “normal” aging across the lifespan. Research was monitored via email and conference calls.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 06/22/2017
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