Linking Cognition to Sensory and Motor Function

Linking Cognition to Sensory and Motor Function

Maintaining mobility requires intact visual-somatosensory (VS) integration, i.e., efficient communications between visual and somatosensory systems in the brain. Since sensorimotor and cognitive processes likely rely on overlapping neural circuits, could cognitive impairment affect VS integration—which in turn might cause problems with balance and gait? To find out, Jeannette R. Mahoney, Ph.D., and Joe Verghese, M.B.B.S., assessed 345 older adults. They found that, compared with cognitively normal individuals, the 52 cognitively impaired adults had significantly reduced VS integration and performed worse on tests measuring balance and gait performance. The findings, published online on May 6 in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, emphasize the importance of successful multisensory integration in aging and suggest that interventions to improve multisensory integration could help prevent falls. Dr. Mahoney is an assistant professor in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology at Einstein. Dr. Verghese is chief of geriatrics at Einstein and Montefiore and director of the Montefiore Einstein Center for the Aging Brain.

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