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Clarkson University Student's Research Outlines Risks of Fatigue
Clarkson University student Stephanie Grobe '17 is watching as a preliminary study confirms her suspicions about a risk senior citizens face from being mentally tired.
The biology and pre-physical therapy major was the lead author of a recently published paper in the journal Preventative Medicine Reports exploring the impact of cognitive fatigue on gait and sway. She and fall prevention researchers from the fields of physical therapy, public health, biomechanics and exercise psychology suggest that being mentally tired can affect a person's postural sway and way of walking enough to increase the likelihood of falling.
A study testing that concept is underway at Clarkson, and preliminary results are backing up that theory, notes Clarkson University Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy and Physician Assistant Studies Ali Boolani.
"Cognitive fatigue was not previously considered a big factor in fall risks, but the results of this study are showing that it is," said Grobe of White River Junction, Vt.
Participants from the Potsdam and Canton, N.Y., area, age 65 and older, were enlisted to test the fatigue theory. They did walking and posture tests, and then performed tedious cognitive tests. Their gait cycles, stride, swing time and stance time all were measured and evaluated. Sure enough, the tiring cognitive tasks made them less steady on their feet.
"This suggests healthcare personnel should use additional care when working with an older adult who is considered a fall risk in the absence of fatigue. Falls cause deaths, create a financial burden for seniors, and have a huge effect within the family, so they are well worth preventing," Grobe added.
She has two other projects in the works. One is a test of synthetic and natural caffeine and the other is a study examining the role of polyphenol consumption, sleep and physical activity on mood. As the lead student researcher for both studies, Grobe helped collect data from 30 subjects for the caffeine test, and from over 1,030 participants for the mood study. Now the researchers are doing the statistical analysis on this study.
Some of her Clarkson classmates have been involved in the research, Grobe said, including
psychology and pre-physical therapy major Holly Bronson '17 of Cold Brook, N.Y., computer science major David Josephs '17 of Potsdam, N.Y., psychology and pre-physical therapy major Kendal Sowa '18 of Granby, Mass., biology and pre-physical therapy major Paige Spittler '18 of Plattsburgh, N.Y., and biology major Brianna Weber '17 of Hilton, N.Y.
Grobe will graduate in May and has been accepted at the University of Wisconsin, where she will begin graduate physical therapy studies in June.
Grobe is a participant in Clarkson's Community of Underrepresented Professional Opportunities (CUPO) in the ASPIRE program, which provides scholarships to underrepresented undergraduate students in STEM majors. Grobe has worked with Boolani for two summers through the CUPO summer research program.
Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, New York, Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.
Photo caption: Clarkson University senior Stephanie Grobe practices with the NeuroCom Balance Master, an instrument which was used in the older adult study and measures postural sway.
[Photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/sgrobe-balance-master.jpg.]