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The influence of moving auditory stimuli on standing balance in healthy young adults and the elderly

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The maintenance of postural balance depends on effective and efficient feedback from various sensory inputs. The importance of auditory inputs in this respect is not, as yet, fully understood. The purpose of this study was to analyse how the moving auditory stimuli could affect the standing balance in healthy adults of different ages. The participants of the study were 12 healthy volunteers, who were divided into two age categories: the young group (mean = 21.9 years) and the elderly group (mean = 68.9 years). The instrument used for evaluation of standing balance was a force plate for measuring body sway parameters. The toe pressure was measured using the F-scan Tactile Sensor System. The moving auditory stimulus produced a white-noise sound and binaural cue using the Beachtron Affordable 3D Audio system. The moving auditory stimulus conditions were employed by having the sound come from the right to left or vice versa at the height of the participant's ears. Participants were asked to stand on the force plate in the Romberg position for 20 s with either eyes opened or eyes closed for analysing the effect of visual input. Simultaneously, all participants tried to remain in the standing position with and without auditory stimulation that the participants heard from the headphone. In addition, the variables of body sway were measured under four conditions for analysing the effect of decreased tactile sensation of toes and feet soles: standing on the normal surface (NS) or soft surface (SS) with and without auditory stimulation. The participants were asked to stand in a total of eight conditions. The results showed that the lateral body sway of the elderly group was more influenced than that of the young group by the lateral moving auditory stimulation. The analysis of toe pressure indicated that all participants used their left feet more than their right feet to maintain balance. Moreover, the elderly had the tendency to be stabilized mainly by use of their heels. The young group were mainly stabilized by the toes of their feet. The results suggest that the elderly may need a more appropriate stimulus of tactile and auditory sense as a feedback system than the young for maintaining and control of their standing postures.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Physical Therapy, School of Health Sciences, Sapporo Medical University, West 17 South 3, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, 060-8556, Japan 2: Laboratory of Sensory Information Engineering, Research Institute for Electronic Science, Hokkaido University, Hokkaido, Japan

Publication date: December 15, 2001

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