19:42 PM

Finding a Balance

Michelle Karabin receives an NIH F31 award for her research in human movement and balance


Balance is an essential part of human movement that is important to maintain as we age. Often taken for granted until impaired, balance is necessary in preventing falls, which can cause serious injury in older adults and costs the United States billions of dollars each year.

Balance control in walking is a complex mechanism requiring multiple sensory inputs and is understudied compared to research in standing. Michelle Karabin, a bioengineering PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh, received an F31 award from the National Institutes of Health to better understand how the body maintains balance during walking.

Her research has a particular focus on the vestibular system, found in the inner ear, one of the sensory inputs which helps maintain human balance and control eye movement. Vestibular disease or injury can cause dizziness or a loss of balance.

“There is a need to better understand the mechanisms of balance in walking to develop effective rehabilitation strategies for individuals with vestibular disorders,” said Karabin, who works in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Human Movement in Balance Lab with her advisor Mark Redfern, professor of bioengineering at Pitt. 

“The goal of this project is to identify how the body coordinates different strategies to maintain stability while walking and how that coordination of strategies is affected by vestibular disorders.”

She will achieve this goal through a combination of computational modeling and experimental work with healthy adults and individuals with vestibular disorders. 

Karabin added, “The ultimate goal of this project is to identify walking strategies that should be emphasized to enhance stability in individuals with these disorders who are at high fall risk.”

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