Characterising gait over different walking speeds in patients with bilateral vestibular loss: preliminary results

Bilateral vestibular hypofunction (BVH) is a bilateral reduction or loss of vestibular function resulting in balance deficits and an increased falls risk. As part of a larger study, this experiment aimed to assess how spatiotemporal gait characteristics and their variability change across different walking speeds in patients with BVH. Nine patients (55±15y) with BVH have participated thus far. Experiments were conducted on the CAREN Extended system (Motekforce Link, Amsterdam, The Netherlands). Following multiple familiarisation trials, the participants completed five recorded two minute walking bouts at different speeds (0.6m/s, 0.8m/s, 1.0m/s, 1.2m/s and 1.4m/s). 60 strides per speed were analysed and the means, standard deviations and coefficients of variation (CV) of stride length and time, step length and width, double support time and swing phase toe clearance were calculated. Stride length, step length and toe clearance all increased with increases in walking speed (P<0.001). Stride and double support time decreased with increased walking speed (P<0.0001). No walking speed effect was found for step width (P=0.25). Significant reductions in variability with increases in walking speed were found for stride length, stride time, step length, toe clearance (P<0.01) and double support time (P<0.05). A significant increase in step width variability was observed with increases in walking speed (P=0.0033). These preliminary data suggest that while anteroposterior gait characteristics may improve in terms or variability with increases in walking speed in these patients, mediolateral motions may become more variable, which may have implications for mediolateral stability and falls risk in patients with BVH.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Gait, Neuroscience

Locomotor Stability Control and Vestibular Function among Older Adults: Implications for Falls Prevention and Research

In the following project, we explored the relationships between age, vestibulopathy and stability control, in order to determine the age and vestibulopathy-related effects on stability control, and to establish if a relationship existed between static and dynamic stability task performance. The first study examined the response to repeated trip perturbations of healthy middle aged adults and vestibulopathy patients, the second examined feedforward adaptation of gait in young, middle aged and older adults to a sustained mechanical perturbation and the third examined the relationship between standing balance and recovery following a tripping perturbation in vestibulopathy patients. The results showed that vestibulopathy is related to a diminished ability to control and recover gait stability after an unexpected perturbation, and to a deficient reactive adaptation potential. With ageing, the ability to recalibrate locomotor commands to control stability is preserved, although this recalibration may be slower in old age compared to middle and young age. Given that a decline in vestibular function is seen with increasing age, we suggest that assessment of vestibular function may be necessary when investigating locomotor stability and falls risk in both research and clinical settings. Finally, despite static balance tasks and parameters being commonly used in clinical settings, we did not find a consistent relationship between static and dynamic stability task performance, indicating the importance of dynamic stability tests when assessing falls risk in clinical settings.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Gait, Posturography

Sensory contributions to standing balance in unilateral vestibulopathy

Patients with unilateral peripheral vestibular disorder (UPVD) have diminished postural stability and therefore the aim of this study was to examine the contribution of multiple sensory systems to postural control in UPVD. Seventeen adults with UPVD and 17 healthy controls participated in this study. Centre of pressure (COP) trajectories were assessed using a force plate during six standing tasks: Forwards and backwards leaning, and standing with and without Achilles tendon vibration, each with eyes open and eyes closed. Postural stability was evaluated over 30s by means of: total COP excursion distance (COPPath) and the distances between the most anterior and posterior points of the COPPath and the anterior and posterior anatomical boundaries of the base of support (COPAmin and COPPmin). In addition, the corrected COPAmin and COPPmin was assessed by taking the corrected base of support boundaries into account using the anterior and posterior COP data from the leaning tasks. UPVD patients showed a tendency for smaller limits of stability during the leaning tasks in both directions. Subject group and task condition effects were found (P<0.05) for COPPath, (i.e. higher values for patients compared to controls). UPVD patients showed lower (P<0.05) COPPmin values compared to the control group for all conditions (more pronounced with the corrected COPPmin). Disturbance of the visual system alone lead to a distinct postural backward sway in both subject groups which became significantly more pronounced in combination with Achilles tendon vibration. The individual limits of stability should be considered in future research when conducting posturographic measurements.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Neuroscience, Physical Therapy, Posturography