Brain and Brawn in Balance: Disentangling central and peripheral contributions to balance control.

Falls are a major health and economic burden in our aging population. Falls occur when we lose our balance and are unable to recover. What limits our ability to maintain and restore balance? This ability is a complex interaction of rapid central processing of accurate sensory information in the brain and rapid peripheral execution of motor responses by the muscles. When one of these processes is impaired, the interplay between brain and muscle functions might allow for compensation or, contrastingly, may limit improvements of balance. This interplay between central and peripheral functions has been strikingly overlooked, while it may underlie balance problems with ageing and disease, and allows for targeted prevention.

The goal of this project is to determine, through detailed analysis of balance and activity behaviour in daily life, how the interplay of central and peripheral impairments contributes to balance problems. Specifically, the goal of the project will be reached by addressing two major aims: (#1 aim) establish how the interplay of central and peripheral impairments affects balance control, and (#2 aim) identify whether prefrontal brain areas govern this interplay.