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A SENSOR DEVICE worn around the
neck on a lanyard or the waist on a belt is
measuring everything NeuRA falls research
participants do for a week as part of a
remote monitoring program to capture an
unbiased picture of a person's gait.
NeuRA researcher officer Dr Matthew
Brodie says gait has previously only been
monitored in a controlled test setting where
people tend to walk like robots.
"What they do in the lab is their best
performance, it doesn't reflect what they do
at home. If you measure them for about a
week you can tell a lot of interesting things,"
Dr Brodie tells Australian Ageing Agenda.
Dr Brodie is responsible for the
ongoing development of an algorithm that
transforms the collected data into
"At the moment we have
broken what they do into three
components. You have the
quantity of their walking, which is
basically what a pedometer does.
But also we can do the quality of
their walking and the intensity of
their walking," he says.
With walking quantity, Brodie
says they are further looking at
the distribution of the steps, which can't
be done with a pedometer, and they are
finding that healthy people complete
more long walks.
"Healthier people will complete
some really long walks for several
minutes. Less healthy people
might have the same amount of
steps but they won't have those
really long walks."
The propensity to do longer
walks is a better indication
than just the number of steps
completed, he says.
"You need to monitor them
for about a week to pick that up
because there is no guarantee they are
going to do the same amount of walking
The algorithm can detect subtle changes
in a person's gait in their daily activity that
can't be seen by the naked eye, says Brodie.
"There's a lot of information buried in
there from a weeks' worth of walking."
The aim is to be able to intervene before
a person has a fall or the quality of their life
spirals out of control, he says.
Participants in all of NeuRA's falls studies
will wear a device for a week at the beginning
of their trial and followed up at intervals.
The method will be used on participants
in both the control and intervention groups. n
over with intervention and
control groups of 250 people
each. For two years, all
participants receive an iPad
and the information program,
which includes a weekly
factsheet, and take part in
Only the intervention group
gets the app and follows the
Delbaere says they will
take a baseline measurement
of each participant at the
beginning, return after a
month to ensure they haven't
changed the set up, then
follow up every six months.
"We are very confident that
it will improve balance but we
will have to wait and see if we
can reduce falls. It's always
difficult. It is the most difficult
outcome to have. One of the
other outcomes is whether we
can get people more active."
Cognition is also being
tested because the interaction
with the program could
improve executive function as
well, says Delbaere.
Weekly online questionnaires
will further measure quality of
life, fear of falling and physical
They are also using other
technology to monitor gait
over a week [see above].
Everything is being
measured and automatically
transmitted through the iPad
for two years, says Delbaere,
who adds the length of follow
up is longer than many studies.
"People will get a pop up
every week asking 'Did you fall
this week?' 'No, I didn't fall'
and that's it. They dont have
to fill in the questionnaire and
send it back. We hope it will
make it a lot easier."
If successful for balance
aims, the app could be released
in the market quickly as it
is already fully developed,
The first participant began in
early February and researchers
expect to begin analysing
the first 200 participants for
balance outcomes in early 2016.
The team is recruiting
participants throughout 2015.
They are ideally looking for
people who live within 20km of
NeuRA, which is in the Sydney
suburb of Randwick. n
Contact the research team on
02 9399 1888 or standingtall@
Making sense of the data measuring a person's gait over a week
Dr Matthew Brodie
www.australianageingagenda.com.au | 51
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