Reduced vestibular function is associated with longer, slower steps in healthy adults during normal speed walking

E. Anson, K. Pineault, W. Bair, S. Studenski, Y. Agrawal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Vestibular signals contribute to balance and walking. With aging, vestibular function declines and gait speed decreases. Vestibular loss contributes to decreasing gait speed, but this influence could be linked to spatial and/or temporal aspects of gait. We investigated the relationship between vestibular function (semicircular canal and otolith function) and spatial and temporal gait parameters in a cohort of adults. Methods: 113 community-dwelling healthy adults (mean age 72.2 (14.6) years) participating in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging were tested. Horizontal semicircular canal (SCC) function was evaluated using quantitative vestibulo-ocular reflex gain. Otolith function was measured with cervical and ocular vestibular evoked myogenic potentials. Gait kinematics were collected during normal speed walking. Multiple linear regressions examined the association between spatial and temporal gait parameters and SCC and otolith function separately, controlling for age, gender, height, and either cadence (for spatial gait outcomes) or stride length (for temporal gait outcomes) to account for gait speed effects. Results: Vestibular SCC function was significantly associated with both spatial and temporal gait parameters. Every 0.1 decrease in SCC function resulted in longer stride length (β = -.04 m, p = 0.004), longer stance time (β = 15.8 ms, p < 0.003), and a slower cadence (β = -2.1 steps/minute, p < 0.001). Otolith function was not associated with any gait parameter. Conclusions: Reduced horizontal SCC function was associated with longer, slower steps in a cohort of healthy adults. These results indicate that vestibular signals contribute to specific spatial and temporal aspects of gait thought to contribute to upright balance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)340-345
Number of pages6
JournalGait and Posture
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Aging
  • Gait
  • Otolith
  • Semicircular canal
  • Vestibular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation

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