Vestibular Function, Visuospatial Ability, and Cognition in Aging: Where Are We?! Webinar
Vestibular input plays a vital role in cognitive abilities, especially related to visuospatial skills (i.e., understanding/interpreting visuospatial information for function and navigation). Recently, this relationship between cognition and vestibular function has been more carefully studied and findings have implications for physical therapists (PTs), particularly those working in geriatrics. Older adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) have a higher prevalence of vestibular impairment than cognitively-intact age-matched peers; this may be relevant in understanding some of their visuospatial impairments. PT-directed vestibular rehabilitation (VR) is effective in managing vestibular impairment in older adults, but individuals with MCI or AD are not routinely referred for VR, perhaps because of assumptions about inability to participate and/or benefit. This presentation will: (1) discuss how cognitive impairment impacts motor learning; (2) review the latest evidence associating vestibular and spatial cognitive functioning in older adults and discuss the relevance of these findings for PTs; (3) share methods of assessing spatial cognition in the clinical environment and discuss the potential of vestibular training to be protective to spatial cognitive functioning; (4) share a framework for VR with individuals with AD and “lessons learned” from a recent pilot project; and (5) discuss future directions for research and clinical practice related to cognition and VR.
1. Discuss the impact of MCI and AD on motor learning and its relevance to PT.
2. Discuss the inter-relatedness of vestibular function and cognition, especially spatial cognitive skills;
3. Apply strategies for quantifying spatial cognition in a physical therapy setting;
4. Integrate lessons learned from a pilot program of vestibular physical therapy for individuals with dementia;
5. Anticipate the direction of future research to inform the role of vestibular rehabilitation in older adults and the potential use as a preemptive intervention for cognitive decline.
Course Recorded November 2021
Julie D. Ries
Julie D Ries, PT PhD, is a Professor of Physical Therapy at Marymount University (Arlington VA). She received her BS in Physical Therapy from Quinnipiac College (Hamden CT), MA in Education & Human Development from George Washington University, and PhD from Nova Southeastern University. She has extensive clinical experience across settings working with older adults and individuals with neurological diagnoses. Her current research interests revolve around assessment & treatment of function & balance in individuals with dementia.
Brooke N. Klatt
PT, DPT, PhD
Brooke N. Klatt, PT, DPT, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her BS in Kinesiology from Penn State University, DPT from New York University, PhD in Rehabilitation Science from the University of Pittsburgh, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University. Her research is primarily focused on optimizing activity and participation in people with vestibulopathy. She works clinically in the outpatient neurologic and vestibular setting at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services in Pittsburgh, PA and she is an ABPTS board certified neurologic clinical specialist.
Eric Anson, PT, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He has practiced vestibular rehabilitation for more than 15 years. His research interests include age-related changes in vestibular function, the functional impact of vestibular disorders and concussion, and adaptability of vestibular perception in vestibular rehabilitation.