Relationships between self-reported retrospective falls and cognitive measures (executive function, reaction time [RT], processing speed, working memory, visual attention) were examined in a population based sample of older adults (n = 658). Two of the choice RT tests involved inhibiting responses to either targets of a specific color or location with hand and foot responses. Potentially confounding demographic variables, medical conditions, and postural sway were controlled for in logistic regression models, excluding participants with possible cognitive impairment. A factor analysis of cognitive measures extracted factors measuring RT, accuracy and inhibition, and visual search. Single fallers did not differ from nonfallers in terms of health, sway or cognitive function, except that they performed worse on accuracy and inhibition. In contrast, recurrent fallers performed worse than nonfallers on all measures. Results suggest that occasional falls in late life may be associated with subtle age-related changes in the prefrontal cortex leading to failures of executive control, whereas recurrent falling may result from more advanced brain ageing that is associated with generalized cognitive decline.
2009 American Psychological Association