Day-to-Day Variability of Postural Sway and Its Association With Cognitive Function in Older Adults: A Pilot Study

Front Aging Neurosci. 2018 May 4:10:126. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2018.00126. eCollection 2018.


Introduction: Increased variability in motor function has been observed during the initial stages of cognitive decline. However, the natural variability of postural control, as well as its association with cognitive status and decline, remains unknown. The objective of this pilot study was to characterize the day-to-day variability in postural sway in non-demented older adults. We hypothesized that older adults with a lower cognitive status would have higher day-to-day variability in postural sway. Materials and Methods: A Nintendo Wii balance board (WBB) was used to quantify postural sway in the home twice daily for 30 days in 20 non-demented, community-dwelling older adults: once under a single-task condition and once under a dual-task condition (using a daily word search task administered via a Nook tablet). Mean sway distance, velocity, area, centroidal frequency and frequency dispersion were derived from the center of pressure data acquired from the WBB. Results: Linear relationships were observed between the day-to-day variability in postural sway and cognitive status (indexed by cognitive global z-scores). More variability in time-domain postural sway (sway distance and area) and less variability in frequency-domain postural sway (centroidal sway frequency) were associated with a lower cognitive status under both the single- and dual-task conditions. Additionally, lower cognitive performance rates on the daily word search task were related to a lower cognitive status. Discussion: This small pilot study conducted on a short time scale motivates large-scale implementations over more extended time periods. Tracking longitudinal changes in postural sway may further our understanding of early-stage postural decline and its association with cognitive decline and, in turn, may aid in the early detection of dementia during preclinical stages when the utility of disease-modifying therapies would be greatest.

Keywords: balance; cognitive decline; functional performance; in-home monitoring; motor control.