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Title: Fear of Falling Alters Anticipatory Postural Control during Cued Gait Initiation
Authors: Ellmers, TJ
Maslivec, A
Young, WR
Keywords: Anxiety;Emotion;Postural threat;Anticipatory postural adjustment;Postural sway;Stepping
Issue Date: 12-May-2020
Publisher: Elsevier
Citation: Ellmers TJ, Maslivec A, Young WR. Fear of falling alters anticipatory postural control during cued gait initiation. Neuroscience. 2020 May 12.
Abstract: Fear of falling can have a profound influence on anticipatory postural control during dynamic balance tasks (e.g., rise-to-toes and leg-raise tasks), with fearful individuals typically exhibiting postural adjustments of smaller magnitudes prior to movement onset. However, very little is known about how fear of falling influences the generation of anticipatory postural adjustments (APAs) during gait initiation; a task in which producing smaller APAs may compromise stability. Sixteen young adults initiated gait as fast as possible following an auditory cue during two conditions: Baseline (ground level), and Threat (fear of falling induced via a platform raised 1.1 m). While the magnitude and duration of APAs did not change between conditions, participants executed steps of shorter lengths during Threat. As APAs during gait initiation are typically proportionate to the length of the first step, the APAs during Threat are therefore disproportionately large (given the shorter step length). We suggest that such failure to scale the APA to the magnitude of the motor output represents a fear-related ‘overcompensation’, whereby fearful participants sought to ensure that the APA was sufficient for ensuring that their centre of mass was positioned above the support leg prior to gait initiation. During conditions of threat, participants also exhibited greater postural sway prior to initiating gait (i.e., following the auditory cue) and took longer to generate the APA (i.e., impaired reaction). As greater reaction times during voluntary stepping is consistently associated with increased fall-risk, we suggest this as one mechanism through which fear of falling may reduce balance safety.
ISSN: 0306-4522
Appears in Collections:Dept of Clinical Sciences Research Papers

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