Multisensory integration (MSI) is an integral aspect of functioning and mobility in everyday life and ability to function well in the real world requires intact MSI. MSI is not fully understood in aging, and its relation to cognitive and motor function has not been comprehensively evaluated. The main objective of my research is to investigate the behavioral, functional, and structural correlates of MSI in older adults and to determine whether multisensory processes are associated with specific cognitive and motor outcomes. Our recent work in older adults has linked the magnitude of visual-somatosensory integration to important cognitive (attention) and motor (balance, gait, and falls) outcomes. We have highlighted the adverse effect of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and dementia on these relationships, but the underlying functional and neuroanatomical networks remain as yet unidentified.
Studying multisensory information processing in older adults could have important clinical and public health implications! These include potentially providing insight into the cognitive and physical attributes of the aging process, affording an understanding of the biological basis of aging, and subsequently aiding in the identification of opportunities to introduce cognitive and physical remediation to older adults. Although admittedly speculative at this point, we believe that optimizing integration of visual-somatosensory inputs may ultimately provide the framework for successful interventions that will reduce falls, improve mobility, and help maintain functional independence in older adults.