Falls by elderly people often result in hip fractures that require joint
replacement and result in pain and disability.
Now researchers at
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba have discovered that a single
dose of a drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can reduce
the risk of falls in the elderly.
The medication is methylphenidate
(MPH), which is used to treat both ADHD and narcolepsy (chronic
The drug, said Itshak Melzer of the Schwartz Movement
Analysis and Rehabilitation Laboratory of BGU’s Faculty of Health Sciences,
“helps improve balance control during walking, hence reducing the risk of falls
among elderly adults.”
According to a study just published in The
Journals of Gerontology, the BGU researchers found that a single dose of MPH
improves walking by reducing the number of step errors and the step error rate
in both single and dual tasks.
“Our results add to a growing body of
evidence showing that MPH may have a role as a therapeutic option for improving
gait and reducing fall risk in older adults,” said Melzer.
especially true in reallife situations, where the requirement to walk commonly
occurs under more complicated, dual-task circumstances with cognitive attention
focused elsewhere (such as watching traffic and talking) and not on performing a
specific motor task.”
The study participants were 30 healthy adults at
least 70 years of age that had the ability to walk 20 meters without personal
assistance or an assistive device. The participants were given a single, 10 mg.
dose of MPH and were assessed under four task conditions of single and combined
motor and cognitive tasks.
“The enhanced attention that comes about as a
result of MPH may lead to improved balance control during walking, especially in
dual task conditions,” Meltzer explained. “Our findings that MPH improves gait
can be explained not just by its effect of attentional improvements, but also by
indications that it has a direct influence on areas of the brain that deal with
motor and balance control.”