The Strange Impacts of Body Sway

New research and individuals experiencing motion sickness from iOS 7 and other screen activities has heightened awareness of the issue—and has heightened awareness of the research of the Affordance Perception-Action Laboratory (APAL) and its director, Dr. Thomas A. Stoffregen.

APAL_photo credit stoffregenAPAL researches the relationships between perception, action, and the surrounding environment. Two topics explored in the APAL are standing posture and body sway. These seemingly unlikely subjects are making a case that motion sickness is not a medical condition, but a movement condition due to subtle movements in the body, known as body sway.

Body sway has a surprising range of consequences. It is best compared to a fingerprint since each person has an individual body sway that is unique to him or her. Body sway is measured by standing on a pressure-sensitive sensor, similar in size to a bathroom scale. Research conducted by Stoffregen and the APAL indicates that those with greater body sway on solid ground are more likely to experience seasickness on a cruise. Additionally, research demonstrates that video game players with greater head sway and pregnant women with increased body sway both are more likely to experience motion sickness than their counterparts who have smaller body sways. Boxers with amplified body sways are more likely to suffer from concussions and head trauma injuries. Current research on body sway is being tested to indicate early signs of Parkinson’s disease, lead poisoning, and the authenticity of psychiatric disorders.

The implications of this research are vast. Naval recruits can be informed if they will be prone to seasickness, athletes can learn if contact sports are unadvisable, and identification and treatment of diseases can begin before visible signs appear.

In the upcoming weeks, the lab will extends its research on body sway, now focusing on the elderly population. The decision to focus on older individual’s body sway came after noting that young adults on cruise ships resemble the walk and balance of the elderly. Since young people walk like old people on a cruise ship, researchers aim to discover how older people walk on a cruise ship. Stroffregen and colleagues will conduct body sway analysis on elderly individuals before and during the cruise in hopes of discovering how they cope with the change. Injury induced by falling is a common and sometimes fatal accident for aged individuals. The intent of this research is to gain a greater understanding on body movement in older populations in order to understand how to prevent potentially fatal falls in aging adults.

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