Friday, August 29, 2014 PT Researcher Lets Seniors Take a Trip A new method being tested in Chicago aims to "vaccinate" individuals who are elderly against falls—by tripping them. Actually it's not as weird as it sounds. The Associated Press (AP) reports that University of Illinois-Chicago researcher and physical therapy professor Clive Pai, PT, PhD is using a specially-built moving walkway that can suddenly shift under a user's feet, tripping them up and—Pai hopes—triggering subconscious learning that will help prevent future falls. Users are outfitted with a special harness that prevents them from actually falling during the training. The AP story quotes Pai as saying that the approach could work as a kind of "vaccine against falls." Pai's preliminary research on the approach was published in the September 2013 issue of the Journal of Biomechanics (abstract only available for free). In that study, he exposed 73 community-dwelling older adults to 24 slip exposures, and concluded that the "perturbation training did alter [their] spontaneous gait pattern," which "enabled them to improve their volitional control of stability and their resistance to unpredictable and unpreventable slip-related postural disturbance." Pai's research is continuing under a 5-year grant from the National Institute on Aging, according to the AP report. The grant-funded project aims to include 300 participants. Research-related stories featured in PT in Motion News are intended to highlight a topic of interest only and do not constitute an endorsement by APTA. For synthesized research and evidence-based practice information, visit the association's PTNow website.