Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Ageing and Degeneration (Edinburgh, UK) (2015) Proc Physiol Soc 33, PC03

Poster Communications

Relationship between sway components of static balance and cognitive impairment in older people

J. A. Campbell1, M. Leandri2, L. Molfetta3, C. Barbera4, M. Tabaton5

1. Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Northampton, Northampton, United Kingdom. 2. School of Medicine, DINOGMI and CIND, University of Genova, Genova, Italy. 3. School of Medicine, DINOGMI, University of Genova, Genova, Italy. 4. School of Medicine, University of Genova, Genova, Italy. 5. DIMI, University of Genova, Genova, Italy.


Background and aimIt has been demonstrated that there is a significant impairment in some balance measures in people with diagnosed Alzheimer's disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) compared to age matched normals, implicating damage to the vestibular pathways as the most probable cause (Leandri et al, 2009). This study extends this to examining the relationship between cognitive ability and the vestibular component of balance in a population of older women with no definite AD or MCI diagnosis, no complaint of memory loss, and without impairment of daily activity, with a view to future consideration of balance as a possible diagnostic or prognostic indicatorMethods70 physically active women with a mean age of 73 (sd=9) years were given the Italian version of the MoCA test and their static balance parameters (AP and ML total sway path length) were measured on a balance platform with and without a 30mm rubber mat. This paper only considers those measurements made with closed eyes to exclude visual balance components.Results30 (43%) of participants had total adjusted MoCA scores below the normal range (<26). The range of MoCA scores recorded was 19-30. A multiple regression model (forced entry) showed that only the AP sway on a firm surface was a significant predictor of the total adjusted MoCA score (R2=0.172). Age was not a significant predictor. Although the AP sway (eyes closed) by itself accounts for less than a fifth of the total variation in cognition as measured by the MoCA, it does show a positive association and is likely to make a significant improvement in any existing risk model for cognitive impairment.An independent-samples median test was used to compare the AP sway, eyes closed values between those with normal and below normal MoCA scores. There was a statistically significant difference (p<0.001) between the groups, with the group with lower MoCA score having greater sway. The AP sway measure in the lower MoCA score group is also more variable than in the normal score groupConclusionsThe antero-posterior sway component of static balance was demonstrated to be the best predictor of the MoCA overall score in physically active older women. As visual and proprioceptive components of balance were excluded in our assessments, the vestibular system is to be considered as a putative link between balance and cognitive impairment.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements