Last updated on April 2018

Effects of Aquatic Intervention on Fall Risk Hazard Perception Calendar Planning and Brain Activity During Elderly


Brief description of study

Normal aging is associated with balance, mobility and executive functions decline that increase fall risk and influence Activity of Daily Living (ADL) and Instrumental ADL (IADL) functions such as safe road-crossing, planning and organizing everyday activities. Changes in cerebellar functional plasticity may mediate between the decline in balance, mobility and executive functions during elderly. Fortunately, mounting evidence suggests that physical activity is beneficial for decreasing aging effects and optimize brain structure and function. According to the dynamic systems theory, the environment in which the physical activity occurs influences the results of the activity. We propose an aquatic physical intervention program as a tool to decrease aging effects that in turn might lower fall risk, increase safety of road-crossing and improve planning and organizing everyday activities among community-dwelling older individuals.

Detailed Study Description

The percentage of elderly individuals (65+) in the society of Israel is 10.6%. As life-span increases, this percentage is expected to reach 15% in 2035. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics of Israel regarding the injuries and fatalities of road users, about 14% of the injuries and about 42% of the fatalities are pedestrians. Older pedestrians are about 22% of the pedestrians, twice their part in the population. Ageing effects on balance, mobility and executive functions (especially working memory and inhibitory control) might partially explain these statistics.

Changes in cerebellar functional plasticity may mediate between the decline in balance, mobility and some executive functions during elderly. Studies have shown age-related decrease in structural morphology and function of the cerebellum. The traditional functions of the cerebellum mainly include involvement in the coordination of motor movements, maintenance of balance, and motor learning. Interestingly, studies have found that cerebellar alpha power has an important role in voluntary movement, as well as in higher non-motor cognitive functions such as working memory. Cerebellar activation during working memory task may reect the automated simulation of cognitive operations.

Various forms of physical interventions were found beneficial to promote balance, mobility and executive function of working memory and inhibitory control performances and optimize brain structure and function during elderly. The environment in which the physical intervention occurs is important. Therefore, changing the environment of intervention from on-land to aquatic may result in changing of cerebellar activity, thereby influence on balance, mobility, working memory and inhibitory control abilities proven to be functions connected to the cerebellum.

Due to the characteristics of water (such as density and viscosity), an immersed individual is exposed to physical forces (e.g. specific gravity, thermodynamics and the meta-centric effect) that do not exist on land. Immersion improves balancing abilities by increasing the proprioceptive input to the immersed body. Sensory feedback is increased by promoting a sense of body awareness, as resistance to movement through water is greater than resistance to movement through air. In support of this view, a recent Magnetoencephalography (MEG) study among adults has shown improved verbal working memory ability following one month of intensive aquatic physical intervention. Improved verbal working memory was positively correlated with increased right cerebellar alpha power. In the purpose study we examine the effects of physical intervention in different environments on balance, mobility, working memory and inhibitory control abilities and brain activity in order to decrease aging effects that in turn might lower fall risk, increase safety of road users and improve planning and organizing everyday activities among community-dwelling older individuals.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03510377

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