Effects of Environmental Perturbations on Variability and Stability of Gait Patterns in Older Adults with Down Syndrome

Investigators: Beth A. Smith and Beverly D. Ulrich.

The combined effects of ligamentous laxity, low tone, obesity, inactivity and physiological decrements associated with aging lead to stability-enhancing adaptations during unperturbed, comfortable walking at a younger chronological age in adults with Down syndrome (DS) as compared to their peers with typical development (TD) (Smith and Ulrich, 2008). To extend our understanding of gait adaptation and stability in older adults with DS, we are using 3-D motion analysis and a safety harness to assess gait variability and falls during challenging and commonly encountered environmental perturbation conditions. At the conclusion of this study we will identify some of the environmental perception-action scenarios that present the most challenge to walking stability in adults with DS, information we believe can affect intervention practices.

Participants: 14 adults with DS, 35 to 65 years of age, and 14 age, height and weight-matched adults with TD. As of June, 2008, we are recruiting only adults with DS.

Walking conditions: unperturbed, counting (divided attention), distracting sounds, uneven surface, obstacle, low light condition, a combination of counting and low light, and a combination of uneven surface and distracting sounds.

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