Establishing a neural marker for inhibitory control during balance recovery

Dave Bolton*, Emmet McNickle, Robert Whelan, Anne Z. Beethe, Sara A. Harper, Kathy Ruddy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Considerable evidence attests to a relationship between executive function and falls. Notable among cognitive elements related to fall risk is the ability to suppress a highly automatic but unwanted action – i.e., response inhibition. Although the ability to stop may seem an unlikely foundation for maintaining balance, there are many complex situations in daily life where we must adapt instinctual actions that could lead to further instability. Most of what we know about the role of response inhibition in balance control is based on correlations between cognitive test performance and self-reported falls, leaving a sizable gap in understanding the mechanisms linking inhibition and balance control. In the current study we expand from traditional balance assessments that accentuate reflexive action and instead impose a need to suppress a prepotent balance recovery step. We leverage recent techniques developed in cognitive neuroscience that can expose a chronology of neuromuscular events leading to successful inhibition. Specifically, we will measure neural markers shown to predict successful inhibition in seated voluntary reaction time tasks using focal hand responses, and apply this to a balance recovery stepping task. Given the link between executive function and falls, there is a strong reason to believe that research designs which incorporate a need for inhibition in balance recovery will offer new critical insights into this poorly understood risk factor leading to falls in vulnerable populations.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted - 30 Apr 2024


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