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Active Senior Couple

121 participants have been recruited so far!

We are recruiting new participants in 2023

We are looking for people aged 50 years or over, who are living in the Perth metropolitan area and have mild cognitive impairment or memory issues and would like to participate in this study.

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About the trial

The Balance on the Brain trial is a large scale research study in Western Australia aimed at improving physical health and preventing falls for people living in the community with mild cognitive impairment. We are measuring how effective usual daily living is compared to a new innovative balance and movement program. This study may be ideal for those not wishing to participate in drug trials.

Participants in this trial are helping us to improve quality of life and cognition for millions of people around the world living with mild cognitive impairment.

About the trial

People living with mild cognitive impairment tend to experience poorer mobility, balance and physical fitness, have poorer quality of life and greater depressive symptoms [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. Importantly, people with mild cognitive impairment are 72% more likely to fall and will use more health care services than those of the same age without mild cognitive impairment [7].

Even if you feel like you are not having any difficulty with your mobility or balance now and you have not had a fall recently, becoming more physically active can benefit you today, but more importantly will benefit you greatly in the future.


Physical activity provides benefits for people at any age and there is growing evidence that it can benefit people with mild cognitive impairment too [8]. For people with no cognitive impairment the research is clear that participating in balance programs can reduce the risk of falling [9]. However, it is unknown whether balance training can help reduce the risk of falling for people living with mild cognitive impairment. This will be one of the first large research trials in the world to find out if we can help to reduce or prevent falls for people living with mild cognitive impairment.

The research project will also show us if we can improve physical health and quality of life and reduce the rate of cognitive decline for people living with mild cognitive impairment.

Living with mild cognitive impairment

If you are

  • 50 years or older

  • living in the community (Perth metropolitan area)

  • have a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or experience memory issues

  • not meeting the physical activity guidelines (ie less than 150 minutes of moderate activity a week) and

  • not doing regular balance training

you might like to participate in our study, which is aimed at improving quality of life and physical health and reducing falls and cognitive decline.

For more information about the study please read below or contact Dr Elissa Burton (Lead Researcher) for more information on (08) 9266 4926.



What is the project about?

  • In this study, we compare usual daily living to a balance and mobility program to see which is better for

    • physical health and quality of life and whether it can reduce ​​

    • cognitive decline and falls and

    • what the associated costs are.

  • Balance training helps older people without memory issues to prevent falls, but it is unclear whether improving balance can help people with mild cognitive impairment.

  • This study will test this in a group of 396 adults (aged 50+ years).

Who is doing the research?

This project is being conducted by a team of experts, including Dr Elissa Burton PhD, Professor Anne-Marie Hill PhD, Associate Professor Rachael Moorin PhD, Associate Professor Joanne McVeigh, Mrs Angela Jacques (Curtin University), Professor Keith Hill PhD (Monash University), Professor Nicola Lautenschlager PhD, Associate Professor Kathryn Ellis (University of Melbourne), Professor Kirk Erickson PhD (University of Pittsburgh), Ms Meg Lowry Physiotherapist (Next Step Health).

We also have a number of health professionals involved including 

  • Geriatricians: Clinical Associate Professor Roger Clarnette (Fremantle Hospital), Dr Joel Tate (Armadale Hospital), Dr Sarah Bernard (Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital)

  • Neurologist: Dr Carolyn Orr (Royal Perth Hospital)

  • Physiotherapists: Luke Bongiascia (Rockingham Hospital)

Is there a cost involved?

  • No, there is no cost involved and you will not be paid to participate in the research

  • The project is funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and Curtin University.

Why am I being asked to participate and what do I have to do?

  • You are being asked to take part because you have memory issues or mild cognitive impairment which we are interested in studying and helping to improve your health

  • For each participant the study will take 12 months overall and your participation will involve the following:

    • Conversation over the phone with our Research Officer where we will ask you questions about your age, health, memory and things like activity levels​ and how much alcohol you drink 

    • After answering these questions our Research Officer will also ask to meet you and a family member to ask a few more questions to help us work out if you are eligible for the study. If you are we will ask you to sign a consent form. We will also ask you to provide permission for us to access your Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme items for the 12 months before and during the study, as this information will allow us to compare costs between the two groups

    • The Research Officer will then take you through some physical tests (e.g. walking and sitting and standing balance exercises) and ask you some questions about your health. This will take around 60-90 minutes. These same tests will be conducted again in 6 and 12 months time

    • Each time we do these tests we will also ask if you would like to wear an accelerometer for one week to see how active you are. We will come back 8 days later and pick it up from you

  • After completing these tests and questions the first time, you will then be randomly allocated (like the flip of a coin) to either the balance and mobility group or the group that receives health promotion and is asked to continue with your usual care and activities. You will have 50% chance of being allocated to either group

  • The participants allocated to the usual care group have a very important role because the outcomes gained by this group will set the bar to know whether the balance and mobility program is any better or not. At the end of the study we will also provide you with an opportunity to receive the balance and mobility program

  • Every participant in the study will receive a phone call each month asking how physically active you have been and whether you have had any falls

  • If you are allocated to the balance and mobility group a physiotherapist will come out to your home (or a place of choice) six times and will speak on the phone with you 4 times over the first 6 months. Each home session will last approximately 30-60 minutes and the phone calls approximately 15-20 minutes. These sessions will be organised at a time that is convenient for you. You will be asked to participate in the balance and mobility program for 24 weeks, at your convenience.

How much time is required for participation in the study?

For participants in the usual care group: initial phone call and completion of first physical tests = approximately 2 hours. Monthly phone calls = approximately 5 mins per call, 1 hour over 12 months and the other two physical tests at 6 and 12 months (approximately 1 hour each). Picking up accelerometer 3 times (10 minutes per occasion) = 30 minutes. So, total time approximately 5.5 hours over 12 months.

For those allocated to the balance and mobility group the same amount as the usual care group plus the physiotherapy visits (6 visits of approximately 45 mins each) and phone calls (4 calls approximately 15 mins each). So the total time would be 11 hours over 12 months.

Are there any benefits to being in the research project?

  • If randomised to the usual care group, you will be greatly helping the study by your experience setting the benchmark by which we will know whether the mobility and walking program being studied is any better or not. Without this, our study would not be possible

  • If randomised to the mobility and walking group you will receive visits from qualified physiotherapists who have taken extra training to be part of the study

  • We anticipate the results of this research will help us to:

    • better understand about how to improve health and reduce falls for people with mild cognitive impairment​

    • inform health professionals about better ways to prevent falls and improve physical function for people with the same health condition as you

    • inform future research for helping people with mild cognitive impairment

Are there any risks, discomforts or inconveniences from being in the research project?

  • Participants will require some time commitment depending on which group you are allocated to

  • The physical tests involve some physical activity, these are routine tests and the risk of taking part is minimal

  • Those in the balance and mobility group will be asked to participate in the balance and mobility program, the physiotherapist will start you at a level appropriate to you, but there is always a small risk of feeling side effects or experiencing an injury while participating

Who will have access to my information?

  • Any information collected in this research study that can identify you will be kept confidential and be de-identified (so your identity will not be known). Only the research team will have access to the data. The only people who will have access to your information are the research team (and the Ethics Committee at Curtin University if they choose to audit the study)

  • All data will remain in Australia

  • Electronic data will be stored on a password protected folder at Curtin University and any hard copy data will be kept in a locked cabinet in the office of Dr Elissa Burton at Curtin University, Bentley WA

  • Data collected by Curtin University study staff (i.e. Research Officers and Physiotherapists) will be stored on a secure network for 25 years. Data provided from the WA Data Linkage Branch and Services Australia will be stored for 7 years after publication

  • The results of this research study may be presented at conferences or published in professional journals but you will not be identified in any results that are published or presented

Will you tell me the results of the research?

Yes. At the end of the project and once we have calculated the results we will inform you of the publication of the main results of the study

Do I have to take part in this research study?

Taking part in this study is completely voluntary. It is your choice to take part or not. If you do take part you can change your mind at any time and withdraw. This will not affect your relationship with the researchers or if you heard about the study from a health professional it will not affect your relationship with them either. If you do want to stop just tell us, you do not need to give a reason. If you do leave the study, you will be able to choose whether the study will destroy or retain the information it has collected about you. If data have already been de-identified it will not be possible to not use it.

Has the study received Human Research Ethics Approval?


South Metropolitan Health Service (SMHS - RGS3930), the Western Australian Department of Health (WA DoH - RGS3930) and Curtin University (HRE2020-0378) Human Research Ethics Committees have all approved the research study. 


Curtin University is responsible for the research project which it is conducting independently of any hospitals and the Government of Western Australia.

What happens next and who can I contact about the research?


If you have any questions about the research study please call Dr Elissa Burton on (08) 9266 4926 or email for more information, to ask questions or to participate.

Click here to download the full Participant Information Sheet and Consent Form

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This research is being conducted by a team of experts in balance and mobility in Australia. Our team of researchers, many of whom have also had extensive clinical experience are representing a number of disciplines including exercise science, physiotherapy, psychiatry, psychology, occupational therapy, health economics and a bio statistician. We all share a passion for finding new ways to help people with memory issues to live more healthy and enjoyable lives. The team of Chief Investigators includes:

Curtin University

Dr Elissa Burton PhD

Associate Professor Rachael Moorin PhD

Associate Professor Joanne McVeigh PhD

Monash University

Professor Keith Hill PhD

University of Melbourne

Professor Nicola Lautenschlager PhD

Associate Professor Kathryn Ellis PhD

University of Notre Dame (Australia)

Mrs Angela Jacques MBiostats

University of Pittsburgh

Professor Kirk Erickson PhD

University of Western Australia

Professor Anne-Marie Hill PhD

Next Step Health

Ms Meg Lowry  Qualified Physiotherapist

Associate Investigators on the research team working with people with memory issues and mild cognitive impairment include:

Dr Joel Tate - Geriatrician, Armadale Hospital

Dr Sarah Bernard - Geriatrician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital

Dr Carolyn Orr - Neurologist, Royal Perth Hospital

Luke Bongiascia - Physiotherapist, Rockingham Hospital

Shannon Williams - Physiotherapist, Royal Perth Hospital

Melanie Clark - Neuro Sciences Unit

Partner Organisations

Alzheimer's Western Australia

Injury Matters

Study Staff

Karen Levit - Research Officer

Stephanie Fullarton - Research Officer

Ash Osborne - Research Officer

Jane Hopkins - PhD candidate

Daniela Yates - Physiotherapist

Anna Zimmerman - Physiotherapist

About Us

About Us
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"I rather like the program. It often helps me refocus and in some aspects is like a meditation in that it helps me get out of my busy and scatty head" - Participant 55

"It is my participation in the Balance on the Brain Study that has provided the motivation to regain a level of fitness that was able to prevent a catastrophe" [i.e. prevented a fall down stairs] - Participant 15

"I have really enjoyed it and it has had a reaffirming and positive impact on my emotional state" - Participant 1

"The program has greatly improved my leg strength in moving in all the different directions" - Participant 15

"I had a follow up appointment with one of your participants, whom I referred to Balance of the Brain program. She told me that this program not only improved her balance and confidence and falls, it also helped her memory and ‘Saved her life’. I had to write this small note to acknowledge the compliment." Geriatrician referring potential participants

"I think it’s excellent. The integration of the physical and the mental, I was very impressed with how that was done" Participant 60

"I think they do a fantastic job fitting in with what people have in their homes. I mean it could be in just one room or a verandah. I think it’s fantastic the way they can adapt it to your conditions." Participant 60

"It’s been something different and something new and I think it’s sort of given me a different outlook and I definitely have felt the benefit." Participant 42

"I’d had a fall and I was probably just a little bit concerned and I thought well, if I do something with my brain it might help. And I feel it definitely has. I’ve got a spring back in my step and I do look for opportunities now to walk." Participant 45


Contact Us

Curtin University, Perth WA

 (08) 9266 4926

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