Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Equilibrioception


There are concerns about the safety of texting while walking. Although evidence of negative effects of mobile phone use on gait is scarce, cognitive distraction, altered mechanical demands, and the reduced visual field associated with texting are likely to have an impact. In 26 healthy individuals we examined the effect of mobile phone use on gait. Individuals walked at a comfortable pace in a straight line over a distance of ∼8.5 m while; 1) walking without the use of a phone, 2) reading text on a mobile phone, or 3) typing text on a mobile phone. Gait performance was evaluated using a three-dimensional movement analysis system. In comparison with normal waking, when participants read or wrote text messages they walked with: greater absolute lateral foot position from one stride to the next; slower speed; greater rotation range of motion (ROM) of the head with respect to global space; the head held in a flexed position; more in-phase motion of the thorax and head in all planes, less motion between thorax and head (neck ROM); and more tightly organized coordination in lateral flexion and rotation directions. While writing text, participants walked slower, deviated more from a straight line and used less neck ROM than reading text. Although the arms and head moved with the thorax to reduce relative motion of the phone and facilitate reading and texting, movement of the head in global space increased and this could negatively impact the balance system. Texting, and to a lesser extent reading, modify gait performance. Texting or reading on a mobile phone may pose an additional risk to safety for pedestrians navigating obstacles or crossing the road.

Concepts: Mobile phone, Walking, Locomotion, Text messaging, Pedestrian, SMS, Instant messaging, Equilibrioception


Vestibular hair cells in the inner ear encode head movements and mediate the sense of balance. These cells undergo cell death and replacement (turnover) throughout life in non-mammalian vertebrates. However, there is no definitive evidence that this process occurs in mammals. We used fate-mapping and other methods to demonstrate that utricular type II vestibular hair cells undergo turnover in adult mice under normal conditions. We found that supporting cells phagocytose both type I and II hair cells. Plp1-CreER(T2)-expressing supporting cells replace type II hair cells. Type I hair cells are not restored by Plp1-CreER(T2)-expressing supporting cells or by Atoh1-CreER™-expressing type II hair cells. Destruction of hair cells causes supporting cells to generate 6 times as many type II hair cells compared to normal conditions. These findings expand our understanding of sensorineural plasticity in adult vestibular organs and further elucidate the roles that supporting cells serve during homeostasis and after injury.

Concepts: Vestibular system, Sensory system, Sense, Ear, Inner ear, Hair cell, Balance, Equilibrioception


Falls are a leading cause of injury among older adults and most often occur during walking. While strength and balance training moderately improve falls risk, training reactive recovery responses following sudden perturbations during walking may be more task-specific for falls prevention. The aim of this review was to determine the variety, characteristics and effectiveness of gait perturbation paradigms that have been used for improving reactive recovery responses during walking and reducing falls among healthy older adults.

Concepts: Improve, Walking, Locomotion, Perturbation theory, Equilibrioception


Much is known about age-related anatomical changes in the vestibular system. Knowledge regarding how vestibular anatomical changes impact behavior for older adults continues to grow, in line with advancements in diagnostic testing. However, despite advancements in clinical diagnostics, much remains unknown about the functional impact that an aging vestibular system has on daily life activities such as standing and walking. Modern diagnostic tests are very good at characterizing neural activity of the isolated vestibular system, but the tests themselves are artificial and do not reflect the multisensory aspects of natural human behavior. Also, the majority of clinical diagnostic tests are passively applied because active behavior can enhance performance. In this perspective paper, we review anatomical and behavioral changes associated with an aging vestibular system and highlight several areas where a more functionally relevant perspective can be taken. For postural control, a multisensory perturbation approach could be used to bring balance rehabilitation into the arena of precision medicine. For walking and complex gaze stability, this may result in less physiologically specific impairments, but the trade-off would be a greater understanding of how the aging vestibular system truly impacts the daily life of older adults.

Concepts: Psychology, Death, Vestibular system, Knowledge, Behavior, Human behavior, Balance, Equilibrioception


The association between functioning of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and physical performance at older ages remains poorly understood. We carried out meta-analyses to test the hypothesis that dysregulation of the HPA axis, as indexed by patterns of diurnal cortisol release, is associated with worse physical performance. Data from six adult cohorts (ages 50-92 years) were included in a two stage meta-analysis of individual participant data. We analysed each study separately using linear and logistic regression models and then used meta-analytic methods to pool the results. Physical performance outcome measures were walking speed, balance time, chair rise time and grip strength. Exposure measures were morning (serum and salivary) and evening (salivary) cortisol. Total sample sizes in meta-analyses ranged from n=2146 for associations between morning Cortisol Awakening Response and balance to n=8448 for associations between morning cortisol and walking speed. A larger diurnal drop was associated with faster walking speed (standardised coefficient per SD increase 0.052, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.029, 0.076, p<0.001; age and gender adjusted) and a quicker chair rise time (standardised coefficient per SD increase -0.075, 95% CI -0.116, -0.034, p<0.001; age and gender adjusted). There was little evidence of associations with balance or grip strength. Greater diurnal decline of the HPA axis is associated with better physical performance in later life. This may reflect a causal effect of the HPA axis on performance or that other ageing-related factors are associated with both reduced HPA reactivity and performance.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Logistic regression, Hypothalamus, Cortisol, Neuroendocrinology, Meta-analysis, Adrenal gland, Equilibrioception


This study examined motor planning for stepping when the paretic leg was either stepping or standing (to step with the non-paretic leg), to understand whether difficulty with balance and walking post-stroke could be attributed to poor motor planning.

Concepts: Hypertension, Stroke, Locomotion, Equilibrioception


The step length-cadence ratio, also called the walk ratio (WR; cm/steps/min) is a measure of cautious gait, poor balance control or impaired gait, but has not been investigated for both genders in a general population of older adults across different speeds and conditions.

Concepts: Biology, Sociology, Walking, Locomotion, Human skills, Equilibrioception


The sense of balance, which is usually barely noticeable in the background of each of our movements, only becomes manifest in its function during intense stimulation or in the event of illness, which may quite literally turn your world upside down. While it is true that balance is becoming a bigger issue, that is mainly because people are losing it more frequently. So why is balance not as commonly talked about in psychology, medicine or the arts as the other five traditional senses? This is partly due to its unusual multi-modal nature, whereby three sensory inputs are coordinated and integrated by the central nervous system. Without it, however, we might not have much use for the other senses. The sense of balance encompasses the bodily experience in its entirety. Not only do we act with the body, we may also think and feel through it and with it. Bodily states are not simply effects of cognition; they cause it as well. Equilibrioception is an essential sense and it is interconnected with a wide range of other areas, including cognition, perception, embodiment, the autonomic nervous system, aesthetics, the arts, and education.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Psychology, Brain, Perception, Sensory system, Sense, Equilibrioception


Several measures of fall risk have been previously developed and include forward walking, turning, and stepping motions. However, recent research has demonstrated that backwards walking is more sensitive at identifying age-related changes in mobility and balance compared with forward walking. No clinical test of backwards walking currently exists. Therefore, this article describes a novel clinical test of backwards walking, the 3-m backwards walk (3MBW), and assessed whether it was associated with 1-year retrospective falls in a population of healthy older adults. Diagnostic accuracy of the 3MBW was calculated at different cutoff points and compared with existing clinical tests.

Concepts: Walking, Automobile, Sustainable transport, Equilibrioception


The effects of a stroke, such as hemiparesis, can severely hamper the ability to walk and to maintain balance during gait. Providing support to stroke survivors through a robotic exoskeleton, either to provide training or daily-life support, requires an understanding of the balance impairments that result from a stroke. Here, we investigate the differences between the paretic and non-paretic leg in making recovery steps to restore balance following a disturbance during walking.

Concepts: Hypertension, Walking, Locomotion, Automobile, Sustainable transport, Equilibrioception