Balance problems when standing and walking are ubiquitous in the older population and can lead to a significant burden for the individual and society. To date, pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments have produced limited results highlighting an area of significant need for older adults. This need is the focus of the Innovative Training Network (ITN) "Keep Control", through funding provided by the European Commission of more than €3 million over the next four years, as a Marie Skodowska-Curie grant under the "Horizon 2020" research and innovation program. Approximately half a million euros from this goes to Kiel University.
"Keep Control" is coordinated by Professor Walter Maetzler from the Faculty of Medicine at Kiel University, and deputy director of the Department of Neurology at the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH). The consortium consists of a total of 12 European locations encompassing neurological, geriatric, biomechanic and statistical research, as well as experts from industry. The objectives are a better understanding of balance and gait deficits in older adults, as well as the search for innovative treatment options.
"Balance disorders and gait problems can lead to life-threatening situations, not only for people with neurodegenerative diseases," says Maetzler. "These problems also often occur in otherwise active and vivacious older people. They lose their independence and mobility, which then also impacts their well-being and quality of life."
The scientists involved are applying new technical methods, to enhance diagnosis in the early stages of gait and balance deficits. They are also carrying out therapy studies with fall-prone older people. A special feature of the project is the collection of data with software that enables both a joint evaluation of the data at all locations, as well as allowing study participants to interpret and contribute their own data. "In addition to research, the second focus of the project is clearly the promotion of early-stage researchers, which we are spending a large portion of our funding on," explained Maetzler. As such, 12 positions for doctoral candidates are currently being advertised.