Enhancing tactile sensation in older adults with electrical noise stimulation

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Older adults often suffer from diminished somatosensation stemming from age-related neuropathy. Recently, localized low-level electrical noise stimulation was shown to enhance tactile sensitivity in healthy young subjects. Here, we hypothesized that fine-touch sensitivity in older adults can be similarly improved. Semmes-Weinstein monofilaments were used to evaluate fine-touch sensitivity on the first metatarsal phalangeal joint with four electrical stimulus conditions and a null (no-noise) condition in nine healthy elderly subjects. Electrical noise stimulation resulted in a statistically significant increase in the number of detections below the null-condition detection threshold, for five of the nine subjects, as well as across the entire population. This work suggests that electrical noise-based techniques may enable people to overcome functional difficulties due to age-related sensory loss.

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