As a scientist, I am fascinated by how we move our bodies, with specific interest in addressing fall risk in older adults. After training in engineering, I became fascinated by human movement, through my interest in music: a wager with a friend to improve my musical abilities led me to discover “new eyes” into how my body moved. So, after getting additional training in kinesiology, aging and epidemiological research, I now put together teams of students and teams of experts to understand how the body controls movement. I use mathematical and statistical tools to gain a better look into the control of posture, gait, and fall risk. As a graduate student, I carried out measurements and analysis of mechanisms underlying reflexes and the control of gait in older adults. As a post-doctoral scientist, I applied these approaches to studying postural function and falls in large populations.
Although falls pose a large burden on the health and well being of older adults, it appears that a program in music-and-movement called eurhythmics is amazingly effective in reducing falls and improving lives, although it is unclear how. Besides a way to reduce falls effectively, I see it as a window into understanding exactly what is involved in being resilient to falls. We are currently figuring out what is it about eurthymics that reduces falls in older adults, and what changes occur in a person taking eurhythmics. This “backward” approach is different from the conventional look at falls – instead of studying people who fall; we study why some programs are unusually effective in preventing falls.
Dalcroze Eurhythmics: Developed by Emile Jaques-Dalcroze in Geneva, this class uses music as a way to organize movements. Music education methods developed by Emile Jaques-Dalcroze is used all around the world, and in all age groups, including seniors. Researchers in Geneva found that seniors who participate can lower their fall risk greatly, improve gait, mood, and cognitive function. The classes consist of walking, memory and coordination games, quick reaction and executive tasks, motor imagery and mirroring, and responding to different movement cues provided with live improved music. We are collecting data on the program effectiveness and how American seniors respond to this program. We will also study how this intervention changes the postural control and gait dynamics, cognitive function, and fall outcomes in the community dwelling older adults.