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Background: Evaluation of task related outcomes within geriatric and fall-prone populations is essential not only for identification of neuromuscular deficits, but also for effective implementation of fall prevention strategies. As most tasks and activities of daily living are performed at submaximal force levels, restoration of muscle strength often does not produce the expected benefit in functional capacity. However, it is known that muscular control plays a key role in the performance of functional tasks, but it remains unclear to what degree muscular control and the associated neuromuscular noise (NmN) is age-related, particularly in the lower-extremities.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine the effects of age and fall-pathology on the magnitude as well as the frequency of NmN during lower extremity force production.

Methods: Sixteen young healthy adults, as well as seventy elderly women (36 healthy, 34 elderly fallers), performed force production tests at moderate levels (15% of maximum voluntary isometric contractions).

Results: Elderly fallers exhibited the highest magnitude of NmN, while the highest frequency components of NmN tended to occur in the healthy elderly. Young subjects exhibited significantly more power in the low frequency ranges than either of the elderly groups, and had the lowest levels of NmN.

Conclusion: These data suggest increased degeneration of muscular control through greater NmN in elderly fallers compared to healthy elderly or young subjects. This could possibly be associated with muscle atrophy and lower levels of motor unit synchronisation.


This article was originally published in PLoS ONE, volume 8, issue 12, in 2013. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082791

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