Fall Risk is in Your Head: New Study Shows Brain Training Reduces Fall Risk

SAN FRANCISCO, March 20, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- New results from a large 10-year study show fall risk and incidence in older adults can be significantly reduced through a modest amount of a particular kind of computerized brain training. The brain training used in the research is found exclusively in BrainHQ, the brain training app made by Posit Science.

“While many believe that falls among older adults stem only from physical failures, such as tripping or legs giving way, these new 10-year results from the ACTIVE Study researchers show – for the first time – that rewiring the brain can help people stay on their feet and reduce the number of real-world falls by at-risk seniors,” said Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science.

Falls are a big problem. The Centers for Disease Control reports that each year one of four seniors experience a fall, resulting in about 3 million emergency room visits with consequences (including hip fractures and brain injuries) costing the health system about $50 billion.

It turns out that brain speed is a major risk factor for falls. The brain begins to slow down by very small amounts (measured in milliseconds – thousandths of a second) in your 20s. With each passing decade, the slowing grows, but may not be noticeable until ones 40s or 50s, when you find yourself increasingly pausing to think of a word. The same sort of slowing also impacts your processing speed and reaction time related to movement.

Multiple studies have shown that slower visual processing speed leads to higher fall risk and more injurious falls, as well as lower walking safety and lower observed mobility performance.

The good news is that scientists have shown that brain processing speed can be improved with the right brain exercises.

The ACTIVE Study enrolled a racially diverse group of 2,802 older adults from six areas of the USA. Participants were randomly assigned to a control group or three different cognitive training groups – memory, reasoning, or speed-of-processing. Each intervention participant did an hour of training, twice a week, for five weeks at the beginning of the study. They’ve been tracked ever since, resulting in dozens of scientific papers, which have changed how we think about aging.

The newest results look at the number of falls over 10 years. Participants were surveyed on many topics, including whether they had fallen. Based on those responses, researchers classified participants as low risk (2,360 participants) or high risk (442 participants). Analysis showed no significance difference in fall risk when looking at the low-risk group. However, analysis of the high-risk group showed a significant, 31 percent, lower risk of falls among the speed-of-processing group, as compared to the control. Results of the other two interventions were not significant.

Earlier studies have shown BrainHQ exercises improve key measures of fall risk. For example, a pair of studies showed improvements in mobility (including time to get up from a chair and walk), balance (including standing on one foot), and gait (including walking speed). Those studies predicted BrainHQ exercises would reduce real-world falls – and the new results confirm that in a large-scale trial.

“Think about losing your balance and starting to fall,” Dr. Mahncke observed. “Your head suddenly begins to move through space in a downward direction, alerting your brain’s visual and balance systems that you are about to fall. By speeding up the brain, you get extra time (measurable in split-seconds) to process that information and regain your footing. Extra time can make the difference between staying on your feet – or crashing to the ground.”

BrainHQ has shown benefits in hundreds of studies. Such benefits include gains in cognition (attention, processing speed, memory, decision making), in quality of life (depressive symptoms, confidence and control, health-related quality of life) and in real-world activities (health outcomes, balance, driving, hearing). BrainHQ is now offered, without charge, by leading national and 5-star Medicare Advantage plans and by leading medical centers, clinics, and communities. Consumers can try a BrainHQ exercise for free daily at https://www.brainhq.com.


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