Contribution of Weight Asymmetry to Balance Control in Stroke

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2020-09-29

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Stroke is a neurological disorder leading to impaired brain function, partial paralysis of the body, and severely affected balance control among patients. Designing interventions to improve balance control following stroke requires deeper understanding about patients’ risk of falls and mechanisms affecting their brain activity associated with impaired balance control. Our study is aimed at addressing this research gap, with the SURF project focused on assessing the risk of falls among stroke survivors (n=3) and healthy control subjects (n=1). All patients experienced right mid-cerebral artery stroke with mild-to-moderate severity at least 12 months prior to their participation. The participants first underwent Berg Balance Score (BBS) and Timed-Up-and-Go (TUG) tests to assess their clinical balance and mobility respectively, followed by a lab-based continuous balance task. We recorded participants’ ground reaction force during the task to quantify their weight asymmetry index (WAI) to assess the extent to which a person shifted their weight on either side of their body. WAI for healthy subject was <10%, indicating that the subject balanced their weight homogeneously across their left and right sides. Stroke survivors, however, showed negative WAI indicating dominant weight asymmetry towards their non-affected side. Notably, a higher weight-shift toward the non-affected side was associated with reduced balance control and mobility, confirming that weight asymmetry is an important contributor to impaired balance control among stroke survivors. Next, we will identify critical regions within the patients’ brain associated with balance control, with a long-term goal to design neuromodulation-based interventions for improving balance control following stroke.

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