Ritalin to Prevent Elderly Falls
The New York Times article “Ritalin for Senior Citizens” reports that potentially ritalin can be used to prevent elderly falls. It cites researchers who state, “Those who took Ritalin performed the test more quickly and had less variability in their “stride time,” a common sign of instability.” Furthermore, a recent study released by Ben Gurion University (BGU) showed that “researchers have discovered that a single dose of Ritalin (methylphenidate or MPH), used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, helps to improve balance control during walking, hence reducing the risk of falls among elderly adults”.
Ritalin or Improved Cognition?
BGU researchers posit that the results may in part be due to the improved attention brought about by the medication. However, they also say that Ritalin actually has a direct effect. It influences “areas of the brain that deal with motor and balance control.” Itshak Melzer, head of BGU’s Department of Physical Therapy says, “Our findings that MPH improves gait can be explained not just by its effect of attentional improvements,” He says, “it has a direct influence on areas of the brain that deal with motor and balance control.” This is encouraging to our senior population for whom falls are the leading cause of injuries. These falls result in emergency hospital admissions and accidental deaths. Anything that could help avoid these tragedies is worth pursuing. If we find that ritalin prevents elderly falls, we have made an important find.