A research team from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, from Israel, discovered that a single dose of a drug that is used to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and narcolepsy is responsible for the improvement of balance control during walking. Administering the drug could possibly reduce the risks of falling among adults and elderly. Researchers show that one dose of MPH (methylphenidate), a psychostimulant drug that is used to treat disorders such as ADHD, narcolepsy and postural tachycardia syndrome, can reduce the number of falling accidents in elderly patients.
Previous studies have established that falling accidents are the leading cause of hip-fractures and other injury-related incidents that reach the emergency rooms. Furthermore, falling accidents are one of the causes of accidental deaths that occur around the world. One of the main causes of falling accidents is the fact that elderly patients suffer from a deterioration of their balance and gait.
According to the new study, recently published in The Journals of Gerontology, the single dose of MPH given to elderly patients managed to reduce the number of stepping errors and the rate of stepping errors in single as well as in dual tasks, thus improving their walking quality.
Professor Itshak Melzer, the lead author of the study, says that the results of their new study show evidence that MPH is responsible for improving gait and reducing falling accidents in elderly patients. Furthermore, he reports that the effect of the drug can be seen during dual-tasking, which is met in the most common circumstances in which a patient finds himself walking. These dual-tasks include focusing attention on both walking and other activities such as talking on the phone or with another person, watching the traffic, etc. Melzer is a member of the Schwarz Movement Analysis & Rehabilitation Laboratory from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The study consisted of 30 healthy subjects, each over the age of 70 and still capable of walking for 20 meters without the help of medical personnel or other assisting devices. Each subject was given a dose of 10 milligrams of MPH. After the dose, each subject was tested in four different task conditions, both in single and combined motor skills and cognitive skills. Meltzer explains that the effect of MPH could be related to the enhanced attention it causes, thus leading to improve balance, particularly in dual-task conditions.
Melzer concludes that the findings of his new study show that MPH does not only improved gait through its effect on the subject’s attention, but also through the direct influence in has on several areas of the brain. MPH affects the areas of the brain that are involved in the control of balance and the areas involved in motor skills.