Dr. Toby J. Ellmers

Research Topic Title: Developing a psychological framework to manage and reduce falls in older adults

Falls in older adults are a major public health concern. At least one-third of adults aged 65+ experience a fall annually, with falls in this age group costing the NHS £4.6 million per-day. The work conducted during my PhD identified numerous (potentially inter-related) psychological mechanisms that can reduce safety while walking and increase the risk of falling. However, before this work can be translated to clinical practice, it is first necessary to integrate the independent findings within a unified conceptual framework. Doing so will help clinical practitioners identify not only how psychological factors can reduce safety, but also the specific processes that underpin these maladaptive behaviours. This will allow for the emergence of interventions which directly target these processes.

During this Fellowship, I will consolidate the experimental work from my PhD through the development of a theoretical framework that accounts for the ways in which psychological factors can increase the likelihood of a fall occurring. I will then disseminate this framework through public lectures to researchers and applied practitioners at academic and clinical institutions around the country. I will also disseminate the work at national and international conferences, and during numerous public engagement events. Finally, with the support of colleagues within the areas of rehabilitation and clinical psychology, I will develop a novel intervention to target the psychological factors identified as salient in the theoretical framework.

Mentor: Prof. Mark Wilson (University of Exeter)


Ellmers, T. J., Kal, E. C., & Young. W. R. (2020). Consciously processing balance leads to distorted perceptions of instability in older adults. Journal of Neurology. Advance online publication.

Jain, B., Hafford‐Letchfield, T., Ellmers, T. J., Chandra, C., Billings, B., Teacher, R., Pearce, S., & Clancy, C. (2020). Dog‐assisted interventions in care homes: A qualitative exploration of the nature, meaning and impact of interactions for older people. Health & Social Care in the Community. Advance online publication.

Ellmers, T. J., Kal, E. C., Richardson, J. K., & Young. W. R. (2020). Short-latency inhibition mitigates the relationship between conscious movement processing and overly cautious gait. Age & Ageing. Advance online publication.

Kal, E. C., Young, W. R., & Ellmers, T. J. (2020). Face masks, vision, and risk of falls. BMJ, 371, m4133.

Ellmers, T. J., Cocks, A. J., Kal, E. C., & Young. W. R. (2020). Conscious movement processing, fall-related anxiety, and the visuomotor control of locomotion in older adults. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Psychological and Social Sciences, 75, 1911–1920.

Hardeman, L., Kal, E. C., Young, W. R., van der Kamp, J., & Ellmers, T. J. (2020). Visuomotor control of walking in Parkinson’s Disease: Possible links between conscious movement processing and freezing of gait. Behavioural Brain Research, 395, 112837.

Ellmers, T. J., Cocks, A. J., & Young. W. R. (2020). Exploring attentional focus of older adult fallers during heightened postural threat. Psychological Research, 84, 1877–1889.

Young, W. R., Ellmers, T. J., Kinrade, N. P., Cossar, J., & Cocks, A. J. (2020). Re-evaluating the measurement and influence of conscious movement processing on gait performance in older adults: Development of the Gait-Specific Attentional Profile. Gait & Posture, 81, 73–77.

Ellmers, T. J., Maslivec, A., & Young, W. R. (2020). Fear of falling alters anticipatory postural control during cued gait initiation. Neuroscience, 438, 41–49.

Ellmers, T. J., Cocks, A. J., & Young. W. R. (2020). Evidence of a link between fall-related anxiety and high-risk patterns of visual search in older adults during adaptive locomotion. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Biological and Medical Sciences, 75, 961–967.

Ellmers, T. J. & Young, W. R. (2019). The influence of anxiety and attentional focus on visual search during adaptive gait. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 45, 967–714.

Chow, V. W. K., Ellmers. T. J., Young, W. R., Mak, T. C. T., & Wong, T. W. L. (2019). Revisiting the relationship between internal focus and balance control in young and older adults. Frontiers in Neurology, 9, 1131

Ellmers, T. J., Paraskevopoulos, I. T., Williams, A. M., & Young, W. R. (2018). Recalibrating disparities in perceived and actual balance abilities in older adults: A mixed-methods evaluation of a novel exergaming intervention. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 15, 26.

Ellmers, T. J. & Young, W. R. (2018). Conscious motor control impairs attentional processing efficiency during precision stepping. Gait and Posture, 63, 58–62.

Ellmers, T. J., Paraskevopoulos, I. T., & Young, W. R. (2017). Integrating fall-risk assessments within a simple balance exergame. IEEE Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Virtual Worlds and Games for Serious Applications, Athens, 2017, pp. 245-248.

Ellmers, T. J., Machado, G., Wong, T. W. L., Zhu, F., Williams, A. M., & Young, W. R. (2016). A validation of neural co-activation as a measure of attentional focus in a postural task. Gait and Posture, 50, 229–231.

Ellmers, T. J., Cocks, A. J., Doumas, M., Williams, A. M., & Young, W. R. (2016). Gazing into thin air: The dual-task costs of movement planning and execution in adaptive gait. PLOS ONE, 11, e0166063

E-mail: t.j.ellmers@exeter.ac.uk; toby.ellmers@brunel.ac.uk

Linkedin: http://linkedin.com/in/toby-ellmers-056b0770

Twitter: https://twitter.com/toby_ellmers

Website / Blog: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Toby_Ellmers