Carolinas HealthCare System

CHS Neurosciences Institute Study Finds Link Between Balance Deficits & ALS

Mohammed Sanjak, PhD, PT
Clinical Research Senior Scientist with Carolinas HealthCare System’s Carolinas Neuromuscular/ALS-MDA Center

Mohammed Sanjak, PhD, PT, clinical research senior scientist with Carolinas HealthCare System’s Carolinas Neuromuscular/ALS-MDA Center, is the principal author on a recently reported clinical study that, for the first time, explored specific balance deficits early in patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

The paper, “Vestibular Deficits Leading to Disequilibrium and Falls in Ambulatory Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis,” was published online by the Archive of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation on June 16, 2014, ahead of its print publication.

The research team evaluated whether the vestibular system, which helps control one’s balance, posture and orientation in space, is compromised early in ALS patients. Dr. Sanjak, who is also an associate professor at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte Department of Kinesiology, along with Mark A. Hirsch, PhD, H. James Norton, PhD, Elena K. Bravver, MD, William L. Bockenek, MD and Benjamin Rix Brooks, MD, all from Carolinas HealthCare System, are part of the research team.

Falls are common in patients with ALS. This occurrence is reported by approximately 33 percent of patients and may occur even before patients seek medical evaluation leading to the diagnosis of ALS. Despite the high number, scientific clinical physiological studies of the causes of falls in ALS have not previously been undertaken.

For this clinical study, Sanjak and the team observed, using computer-instrumented neurophysiologic techniques, whether the vestibular system is affected in ambulatory individuals with ALS who exhibit no classical clinical signs of instability or history of falling. The team identified that patients with normal balance scores have decreased ability to use their vestibular system and must rely on visual cues for posture and to maintain balance.

“By demonstrating that ALS does affect the vestibular system, there may now be increased understanding of falls in early ALS and development of improved rehabilitation strategies for ALS patients that might prevent falls from happening,” said Dr. Sanjak.

View the abstract

Learn more about the System’s neuromuscular/ALS research laboratory