Balance Disorders Laboratory

Research Interests

The Balance Disorders Laboratory examines how motor signals sent to muscles and sensory information about body position interact to maintain a person's balance while standing or walking. Diseases or injury that damage the motor (e.g. Parkinson's disease) or sensory (e.g., vestibular injury, multiple sclerosis) pathways can disrupt balance. In addition to studying how balance control is disrupted, our laboratory is utilizing novel balance training interventions along with state-of-the-art brain imaging (e.g. MRI) to determine rehabilitation efficacy in clinical populations.

Current Research

Neural Mechanisms Underlying Gait/Balance Control

The Balance Disorders Laboratory's current studies are relating integrity of the brain’s postural/locomotor circuits to objective measures of balance and gait disorders in patients with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease as well as patients with Frontal Gait Disorders (e.g., vascular parkinsonism). These projects will improve our understanding of the role of the frontal cortex in balance and gait and how cognitive impairments relate to postural disorders with the goal of improving mobility rehabilitation in the elderly.

Fling et al. Asymmetric pedunculopontine network connectivity in parkinsonian patients with freezing of gait (FoG+) (2013). Brain, 136(8):2408-18.

Locomotor Network Connectivity Alterations in Parkinson's Disease

Locomotor Network Connectivity Alterations in Parkinson's Disease

Balance and Gait Rehabilitation

Balance and Gait Rehabilitation in People with Parkinsonism

One of the long-term goals of the laboratory is to develop effective physical and cognitive rehabilitation approaches to improve balance and gait in people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Clarifying the relationships between gait deficits and frontal lobe deficits in the brain will lead to more effective rehabilitation interventions that can improve both mobility and cognitive function not only in people with PD, but also in elderly adults at high risk of falling due to neurological deficits that affect the frontal lobe of the brain.

King LA & Horak FB (2009). Delaying mobility disability in people with Parkinson’s disease using a sensorimotor agility exercise program. Phys Ther, 89(4):384-93.

Balance and Gait Rehabilitation

Balance and Gait Rehabilitation

Portable, Wireless Motion Sensors

No current system exists that identifies and characterizes movement performance unobtrusively during spontaneous, daily activity. The Balance Disorders Laboratory is developing a unique system to measure mobility (gait and dynamic balance) using wearable sensors throughout the day. Our OHSU/PSU start-up company, APDM, is developing systems to allow clinicians and clinical researchers to monitor mobility and clinical motor symptoms using their core technology, 'Opal' movement monitors.

Horak FB & Mancini M (2013). Objective biomarkers of balance and gait for Parkinson's disease using body-worn sensors. Mov Disord, 28(11):1544-51.

Portable, Wireless Motion Sensors