This month’s Sage Research Institute Faculty Spotlight is acknowledging the work of Dr. Laura Gras, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy and Dr. Mary Rea, Professor and Chair of Biology. Dr. Gras and Dr. Rea have been researching the effects of several therapeutic practices on balance in elderly individuals. They have used this topic as an opportunity to involve both undergraduate and graduate students in research on campus. Their work is highlighted in the interview below.
Q1: What originally interested the two of you in collaborating on a research project together? How has your research evolved since you began working with one another?
We started our collaboration together 9 years ago when we worked on several projects with researchers at RPI’s Lighting Research Center. We studied the effects of lighting to improve balance and reduce falls which was funded by NIH and resulted in 3 publications. We’ve also had several presentations at national conferences.
Q2: Could you tell us more about the specifics of your current research?
The current project is using a multifactorial fall intervention program to improve balance in older adults who are at a risk for falls. The program is twice a week for 1 hour for 8 weeks. During the 1-hour session we have the participants do 20 minutes of balance education, 20 minutes of walking and 20 minutes of Wii bowling. The Wii bowling portion of the program is also a balance intervention. The participants need to stand up from a chair, walk 10 feet,bowl, turn around, walk back to the chair and sit down each time that they bowl. The improvement in the balance of the participants after the 8 week program really has been incredible.
Q3: You have had many students over the years who have assisted you in recruiting subjects and collecting data. What has been the most rewarding aspect of involving so many students in your research project?
We have involved students from the graduate Doctor of Physical Therapy and the undergraduate Biology Programs in all of the projects that we have conducted together. The students have been very hands-on during recruitment, testing and assisting in the interventions. We have enjoyed seeing the students interacting with the older adults in the projects and involving them in something that they report looking forward to doing each week.
Q4: What are your future plans for this specific research topic? Have or will you published any articles related to this specific research?
This semester we have added a control group to compare the 17 participants to and plan to submit an article for publication. We presented this project at the New York Physical Therapy Conference last week and we will be presenting it at the American Physical Therapy Association’s Combined Sections Meeting in Las Vegas in February.
Q5: Is there future work that you will be pursuing?
We are planning to do research on the affects of blue light on sleep and falls in older adults.