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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Location: Boston, Massachusetts

2010 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 amoung older adults. With assistance from Tufts University Department of Psychology through this SCA we collaborated to explore age-related alterations in balance, gait, and cognition. In the pilot study to validate the gait apparatus in older adults, men and women from five age groups (21-25, 46-59, 60-65, 66-70 and 71-75 years of age) walked at both 1.5 mph and their prefered walking speed. Participants also engaged in balance tests before and after walking. Finally, participants completed tests of spatial learning and executive function. Results show that these methods are sufficiently robust to detect age related declines in balance, gait, and cognition with older adults showing increased sway (particularly when vision is impaired), increased variance in walking parameters but decreased range of comfortable walking speeds, less efficient executive function and spatial learning. These findings are important because they out line a comprehensive methodology for assessing the impact of dietary components on mobility and memory function during "normal' aging.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 06/28/2017
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