Balance and Fall Risk

Published Research on How BrainHQ Affects Balance, Gait, and Fall Risk

A lot of people have heard that physical fitness enhances brain function, but what about the other way around? Can brain fitness affect physical function?

Five randomized, controlled trials suggest the answer is yes. Three of those studies show that a poor “useful field of view” (what your brain can take in with a single glance) is closely correlated to a higher number of falls, more collisions when walking, and poorer mobility. The other two trials trained older adults with BrainHQ exercises designed to improve visual processing and useful field of view. They are the first (that we know of) that show that working out your brain can positively change your physical outcomes.

But why does brain fitness affect these physical abilities? Balance, especially, is a “brain job” because your brain is constantly telling your body to make tiny adjustments (in milliseconds and millimeters) so that you don’t fall down. For instance, if you trip on a crack in the sidewalk, your brain sends signals to several parts of your body to help keep you upright. What’s more, the brain can prevent this situation from happening at all: if your useful field of view is large enough, and your visual processing is fast enough, you’ll spot the crack and avoid it instead of tripping.

Here are some details on the two training studies:

  • A study at the University of Illinois and Northwestern University showed that people (in this case mostly African American women) age 65+ who trained on three visual training exercises in BrainHQ for 20 hours made significant gains in balance and gait speed, while the control group experienced declines over the same period.
  • The second study showed that people aged 70+ who trained on visual BrainHQ exercises for 30 hours did significantly better at maintaining their balance than people who were in the control group.

Information and citations for studies on BrainHQ, balance, and fall risk


“Impact of cognitive training on balance and gait in older adults”
Published in: Journals of Gerontology Series B
Lead Author: Renae L. Smith-Ray, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago
View abstract

“A randomized trial to measure the impact of a community-based cognitive training intervention on balance and gait in cognitively intact black older adults”
Published in: Health Education & Behavior
Lead Author: Renae L. Smith-Ray, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago
View article

“Predictors of falling in older Maryland drivers: A structural-equation model”
Published in: Journal of Aging and Physical Activity
Lead Author: David E. Vance, PhD, University of Alabama at Birmingham
View abstract

“Divided visual attention as a predictor of bumping while walking: The Salisbury eye evaluation”
Published in: Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science
Lead Author: Aimee T. Broman, Johns Hopkins University
View abstract

“Association between visual attention and mobility in older adults”
Published in: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
Lead Authors: Cynthia Owsley PhD, and Gerald McGwin Jr., PhD, University of Alabama at Birmingham
View abstract