Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




Nagamatsu, Lindsay S.

2nd Supervisor

Heath, Matthew



BACKGROUND: The aging population is rapidly increasing, where currently in North America, the population of older adults (ages 60+) outnumbers the population of children. Falls are a major concern for older adults and their quality of life. Cognitive impairment has been shown to be declined in older adults at-risk for falls, but working memory has not been thoroughly investigated within this population. PURPOSE: To examine differences in Non-Fallers, Moderate Risk for Falls, and Fallers in a working memory task using electroencephalography (EEG). METHODS: Older adults (n=44, female=27) aged 60 – 80 years (m=68.8, SD=4.7) completed two sessions. The first session incorporated general demographic questionnaires and Tinetti’s Mobility Test. Participants were classified as Non-Fallers, Moderate Risk for Falls, or Fallers based on their Tinetti’s Mobility Test results and their falls history. The second session had participants complete the n-back, a working memory test, while behavioural and EEG results were recorded. RESULTS: We found that in the 2-Back test, behaviorally those who were at risk performed the worst (slower reaction time and decreased accuracy) in comparison to the Non-Fallers and Fallers. However, from the EEG results, Fallers were more cognitively impaired, with earlier latencies for the N2 and P3 components in comparison to the other groups, while the Moderate Risk for Falls group were significantly impaired in peak latencies in the N2 only in comparison to the Non-Faller group. CONCLUSIONS: Individuals at risk and fallers differ in their impairment in working memory in comparison to non-fallers. Working memory and falls risk should be further investigated as a proactive approach to the falls phenomena.