Age-related differences in head and trunk coordination during walking
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The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of ageing on the pattern and structure of head and trunk accelerations during walking. Head and trunk accelerations of young (n = 8; mean = 23 years, SD = 4 years) and elderly (n = 8; mean = 74 years, SD = 3 years) individuals were measured using triaxial accelerometers while performing preferred speed walking. Accelerations were examined using power-spectral analysis and measures of signal smoothness, regularity and coupling. No differences in walking speed or signal regularity were detected between age groups. Compared to the young participants, the elderly had (1) a greater proportion of signal power above 6 Hz for the trunk, (2) a smaller difference in signal smoothness between the trunk and head, (3) less signal smoothness in the mediolateral direction, and (4) a greater degree of directional coupling for the head compared to the trunk. Overall these results suggest that the pattern of head accelerations was relatively unaffected by age, and that both age groups achieved similar levels of head stability despite differences in trunk acceleration characteristics. The manner in which head stability was achieved differed between age groups, with the elderly employing an upper body coordination strategy that enhanced coupling between acceleration directions of the head compared to the trunk. The findings of this study also suggest that an absence of age-related differences in signal complexity at one level of postural system, combined with differences at another level, may provide information about the way in which the motor system prioritises postural control during gait.
Human Movement Science