Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


W.M. Keck Science Department

Reader 1

John Milton

Reader 2

James Higdon

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© 2011 Michael Nguyentat


Falling, an epidemic most prevalently seen in the elderly population, accounts for the majority of injury-related cases seen by emergency departments across the United States. Unfortunately, with no large-scale institutionalization of a solution, the problem is only expected to exacerbate as our planet’s population approaches the 7 billion mark. In the wake of the recent surge of falls among the elderly, Japan has implemented a program to include unicycling in the physical education curriculum for elementary schools across the country. The goal for this program is to encourage children to establish strong fundamental balancing skills, which could potentially alleviate the pain—physical, emotional, and financial—incurred from falls in the elderly. This senior thesis study builds off Japan’s unicycling program by investigating ways to improve wobble board balancing, a more practical alternative to unicycling. In previous research, the skill of stick balancing, a motor task that has been shown to behave with the same power laws as wobble board balancing, has been improved with the use of vibrations. Here, we show that learning to wobble board balance is not expedited and wobble board balancing skill is not improved with the employment of vibrations, unlike stick balancing. Nonetheless, those who learned to wobble board balance with background vibrations went on to later outperform those who learned to wobble board balance without vibrations. These results suggest that vibrations (50 Hz, 0.18 mm amplitude) have a beneficial effect on the development of skill for wobble board balancing that is not related to the direct physical effects of the vibration. The observations also suggest that in the presence of vibrations, the nervous system develops more robust strategies for controlling balance.