Researchers at University of Michigan reveal that understanding what happens during the critical window of time between the brain sensing a fall and muscles responding could be key to explaining why a large number of elderly suffer from serious falls.
A better understanding of what happens in the brain and muscles during this lag could go a long way toward prevention.
To that end, researchers at the U-M School of Kinesiology developed a novel way of looking at the electrical response in the brain before and during a fall by using an electroencephalogram.
Findings showed that many areas of the brain sense and respond to a fall, but that happens well before the muscles react.
Lead researcher Daniel Ferris likened the study method to recording an orchestra with many microphones and then teasing out the sounds of specific instruments.
In the study, researchers measured electrical activity in different regions of the brain.
"We're using an EEG in a way others don't, to look at what's going on inside the brain," Ferris, a professor in kinesiology, said.
"We were able to determine what parts of the brain first identify when you are losing your balance during walking," he said.