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Background: Correlations between falls and executive function tests, particularly those tests emphasizing inhibitory control, suggests that the ability to suppress automatic, but unwanted action, is important in fall prevention. Response inhibition has been a topic of considerable interest in the cognitive neuroscience community for many decades, bringing with it, the development of techniques that could be used to inform assessment of reactive balance. Research question: Can we apply a method used in traditional cognitive testing - the stop signal task - to measure response inhibition in a speeded, balance recovery task? Methods: Twenty healthy, young adults completed a novel reactive balance test which required occasional suppression of a rapid balance recovery step. Participants were released from a supported lean (‘Go’ cue) requiring them to quickly step forward to regain balance. On some trials, a stop tone instructed participants to suppress a step and relax into a harness. Step trials were much more frequent (80%) than stop trials (20%) to bias a rapid stepping response. The stop tone was presented at various delays post-perturbation, to manipulate task difficulty (i.e., longer delays make step suppression difficult). Stopping capacity was determined using lift off times from force plates, and by contrasting muscle activation in failed versus successful stop trials. Results: Most participants were able to successfully suppress a balance recovery step on occasion, allowing for accurate estimation of stopping capacity. This was especially true in a group of participants (n = 10) where shorter, and thus easier, stop signal delays were used. Significance: While balance assessments often stress reflexive action, there is a need for methods that evaluate response inhibition. The present study leveraged a gold standard cognitive test of action cancellation to develop a method to estimate stopping capacity in a reactive balance context.

Publication Date



Logan, UT


balance recovery, fall prevention, balance assessment, response inhibition


Kinesiology | Medicine and Health Sciences

A Method to Assess Response Inhibition During a Balance Recovery Step