IMPROVED PROPRIOCEPTIVE FUNCTION BY APPLICATION OF SUBSENSORY ELECTRICAL NOISE: EFFECTS OF AGING AND TASK-DEMAND
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The application of subsensory noise stimulation over the lower limbs has been shown to improve proprioception and postural control under certain conditions. Whereas the effect specificity seems to depend on several factors, studies are still needed to determine the appropriate method for training and rehabilitation purposes. In the current study, we investigated whether the application of sub sensory electrical noise over the legs improves proprioceptive function in young and older adults. We aimed to provide evidence that stronger and age-related differential effects occur in more demanding tasks. Proprioceptive function was initially assessed by testing the detection of passive ankle movement (kinesthetic perception) in twenty-eight subjects (14 young and 14 older adults). Thereafter, postural control was assessed during tasks with different sensory challenges: i) by removing visual information (eyes closed) and; ii) by moving the visual scene (moving room paradigm). Tests performed with the application of electrical noise stimulation were compared to those performed without noise. The results showed that electrical noise applied over the legs led to a reduction in the response time to kinesthetic perception in both young and older adults. On the other hand, the magnitude of postural sway was reduced by noise stimulation only during a more challenging task, namely, when the optical flow was changing in an unpredictable (nonperiodic) manner. No differential effects of stimulation between groups were observed. These findings suggest that the relevance of proprioceptive inputs in tasks with different challenges, but not the subjects' age, is a determining factor for sensorimotor improvements due to electrical noise stimulation. (C) 2017 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.