Can balance training improve neglect?

February 5, 2018

Many athletes have discovered the benefits of balance training. It not only strengthens many muscle groups, but it also aids in agility, coordination, and overall athletic performance. Some researchers decided to take the possibilities of balance training to another level. They tested its said benefits on stroke patients with unilateral neglect; a condition where a patient is less aware of one side of the body.

For many stroke survivors with unilateral neglect, life won’t be the same again. Neglect reduces one’s awareness and consequently, one’s response to stimuli on one side of the visual field or body. It can compromise one’s sense of balance, increasing the risk of falls and other injuries. And, it reduces one’s ability to live independently. Conventional rehabilitation usually helps in improving the symptoms of neglect. However, researchers from the Ankara University in Turkey have another possible effective solution – balance training.

Kinesthetic Ability Trainer

Three researchers investigated the effects of the Kinesthetic Ability Trainer (KAT) on patients with unilateral neglect. They sought to determine whether using this as an adjunct to a conventional rehabilitation program would have better outcomes among stroke patients. KAT is a balance and training system that provides visual feedback to control body posture. This system has a movable platform supported by a small pivot at its central point.

The 64 patients involved in the study were randomly assigned to receive either the conventional rehabilitation program or KAT with a traditional rehabilitation program. Those in the KAT group received 5 KAT therapies per week for 4 weeks (a total of 20 KAT therapies for the entire duration of the study). Each KAT training session lasted for 20 to 30 minutes.

Patients were tested for the presence and extent of visual neglect (researchers used the Behavioral Inattention Test or BIT) and for functional independence. Both groups showed improvement in the tests mentioned above although those in the KAT group showed a little more progress.

There were not enough patients in the study to confirm KAT’s effectiveness in improving neglect. However, if you’re curious if it works, you can include balance training as part of your rehab protocol (some rehabilitation centers have it). You can also do it at home with KAT equipment.

KAT equipment is expensive. Brand new ones cost over $1,000. However, you can save a few hundred dollars by opting for used KAT equipment. The cheapest one you can find in eBay costs $449.

 

The lead author of this publication is Dr. Kutlay from the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, School of medicine, Ankara University Hospital, Ankara, Turkey.

What you can do with this information

Editorial note:

Some exercises that are meant to improve one thing, can also improve other unexpected functions. Balance training could be one of those exercises, although the evidence is not strong enough yet.

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