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Front. Aging Neurosci., 09 April 2014 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2014.00064

Neuropsychological mechanisms of falls in older adults

Yu Liu1†, John S. Y. Chan2† and Jin H. Yan3,4*
  • 1Department of Psychology, Peking University, Beijing, China
  • 2Department of Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
  • 3Institute of Affective and Social Neuroscience, Shenzhen University, Nanshan District, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
  • 4Department of Psychology, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

Falls, a common cause of injury among older adults, have become increasingly prevalent. As the world’s population ages, the increase in—and the prevalence of—falls among older people makes this a serious and compelling societal and healthcare issue. Physical weakness is a critical predictor in falling. While considerable research has examined this relationship, comprehensive reviews of neuropsychological predictors of falls have been lacking. In this paper, we examine and discuss current studies of the neuropsychological predictors of falls in older adults, as related to sporting and non-sporting contexts. By integrating the existing evidence, we propose that brain aging is an important precursor of the increased risk of falls in older adults. Brain aging disrupts the neural integrity of motor outputs and reduces neuropsychological abilities. Older adults may shift from unconscious movement control to more conscious or attentive motor control. Increased understanding of the causes of falls will afford opportunities to reduce their incidence, reduce consequent injuries, improve overall well-being and quality of life, and possibly to prolong life.

Keywords: aging, fall prevention, physical heath, neuropsychological factors

Citation: Liu Y, Chan JSY and Yan JH (2014) Neuropsychological mechanisms of falls in older adults. Front. Aging Neurosci. 6:64. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2014.00064

Received: 07 December 2013; Paper pending published: 22 February 2014;
Accepted: 23 March 2014; Published online: 09 April 2014.

Edited by:

Hari S. Sharma, Uppsala University, Sweden

Reviewed by:

Richard Camicioli, McGill University, Canada
Todd C. Handy, University of British Columbia, Canada

Copyright © 2014 Liu, Chan and Yan. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Jin H. Yan, Institute of Affective and Social Neuroscience, Shenzhen University, 3688 Nanhai Avenue, Nanshan District, Shenzhen, Guangdong 518060, China e-mail: jin.yan@sjsu.edu

Yu Liu and John S.Y. Chan are co-first authors.