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Balance control in young children: a synergistic approach combining functional assessment and neuromechanics to unravel balance control mechanisms.

Adequate balance control is a prerequisite to achieve postures in early life and more complex gross and fine motor skills later in childhood. Balance deficits are a common problem in children with various pathologies such as cerebral palsy, developmental coordination disorder or sensorineural hearing loss. Because of the potential impact of these balance deficits on motor development, they need to be detected early in childhood. However, balance control is complex and comprises different mechanisms such as predictive, proactive and reactive control. At present none of the available paediatric balance tests comprehend to total concept of balance control. Most tests have been focussing on balance control in static and predictable environments, ignoring the contribution of reactive balance mechanisms. This is an underrepresentation of the daily life situation involving object interactions and changing physical environments. Therefore, the aim of this project is to develop an integrated approach of assessing balance in 5 to 7 year old children covering the entire concept of balance control. A synergistic approach, combining functional assessment methods of balance performance with more in-depth neuromechanical analysis will be used. Neuromechanics focusses on the interplay between the neural processes (e.g. reaction times) and the mechanical aspects of balance control (e.g. amount of sway) unravelling balance control strategies that might otherwise remain hidden. In this way, fundamental insights will be gained into the construct of balance control and the contribution of the different mechanisms in 5 to 7 year old children. These insights will result in a validated test that allows the clinician to identify overall balance deficits as well as the specific domains of balance control that are disturbed. Identification of these domains allows for specific physiotherapeutic intervention planning. Furthermore, the better understanding of balance control mechanisms in young children will open new horizons for research regarding the contribution of balance control deficits to developmental (motor) problems in children.
Date:1 Jul 2019  →  31 Dec 2020
Disciplines:Biomechanics, Motor control, Rehabilitation