Normobaric hypoxia effects on balance measured by computerized dynamic posturography

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High Altitude Medicine and Biology






Mary Ann Liebert

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Methods: Following a familiarization trial, 12 males (27.3 ± 7.1 years) completed three sessions in random order on a NeuroCom SMART Balance Master: a sham trial at the ambient altitude of 1500 m and simulated altitudes of 3000 and 5000 m created by a hypoxic generator. The NeuroCom provided composite scores for a sensory organization test of equilibrium and a motor control test to assess the appropriate motor response. Additional information on somatosensory, visual, and vestibular responses was obtained. Each session consisted of 20 minutes of rest followed by the NeuroCom test, then 10 minutes of exercise, and 10 minutes of recovery followed by a second NeuroCom test, all while connected to the hypoxic generator. Mean differences were identified with a two-way (pre/postexercise and altitude condition), repeated-measures analysis of variance. Results: The composite sensory score was significantly lower (p < 0.001) during the 5000 m trial (73.4 ± 12.0) compared to the 1500 m (80.8 ± 7.0) and 3000 m (84.1 ± 5.0) altitudes. The inability to ignore inaccurate visual cues in a situation of visual conflict was the most common sensory error. Motor control was not affected by altitude or exercise. Discussion: These results suggest that moderate hypoxia does not affect balance, but severe hypoxia significantly reduces equilibrium. Furthermore, it appears that the alterations in equilibrium are primarily from impairments in visual function.

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