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Dose of ADHD drug may help elderly avoid falls

Sunday July 28, 2013
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A single dose of methylphenidate, used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy, helps to improve balance control during walking and reduces the risk of falls among elderly adults, according to recent findings.

Falls in older adults are the leading cause of hip fractures and other injury-related visits to EDs and of accidental death, according to the CDC. Age-related deterioration in gait and balance is a contributing factor in falls.

According to a small study of 30 healthy adults published online in The Journals of Gerontology, researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel found a single dose of methylphenidate, or MPH, improves walking by reducing the number of step errors and the step error rate in both single and dual tasks.

"Our results add to a growing body of evidence showing that MPH may have a role as a therapeutic option for improving gait and reducing fall risk in older adults," Itshak Melzer, PT, PhD, of BGU’s Schwartz Movement Analysis and Rehabilitation Laboratory, Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, said in a news release.

"This is especially true in real-life situations, where the requirement to walk commonly occurs under more complicated, 'dual-task’ circumstances with cognitive attention focused elsewhere (e.g., watching traffic, talking) and not on performing a specific motor task."

The 30 participants were healthy adults ages 70 and older who were able to walk 70 feet without personal assistance or an assistive device. Each subject was given a single 10 mg dose of MPH and assessed under four conditions: a single task, standing still; a dual task, standing still and performing a memory task; a single task, narrow base walking; and a dual task, narrow base walking and performing concurrent cognitive tasks. The researchers found the single dose of MPH improved narrow base walking, but there was no similar improvement in postural stability, according to the study.

"The enhanced attention that comes about as a result of MPH may lead to improved balance control during walking, especially in dual task conditions," Melzer said in the release. "Our findings that MPH improves gait can be explained not just by its effect of attentional improvements, but also by indications that it has a direct influence on areas of the brain that deal with motor and balance control."

Study abstract: http://bit.ly/1600oll.


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