Instrumented Trail-Making Task: Application of Wearable Sensor to Determine Physical Frailty Phenotypes

He Zhou, Javad Razjouyan, Debopriyo Halder, Anand D. Naik, Mark E. Kunik, Bijan Najafi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The physical frailty assessment tools that are currently available are often time consuming to use with limited feasibility. Objective: To address these limitations, an instrumented trail-making task (iTMT) platform was developed using wearable technology to automate quantification of frailty phenotypes without the need of a frailty walking test. Methods: Sixty-one older adults (age = 72.8 ± 9.9 years, body mass index [BMI] = 27.4 ± 4.9 kg/m2) were recruited. According to the Fried Frailty Criteria, 39% of participants were determined as robust and 61% as non-robust (pre-frail or frail). In addition, 17 young subjects (age = 29.0 ± 7.2 years, BMI = 26.2 ± 4.6 kg/m2) were recruited to determine the healthy benchmark. The iTMT included reaching 5 indexed circles (including numbers 1-to-3 and letters A&B placed in random orders), which virtually appeared on a computer-screen, by rotating one's ankle-joint while standing. By using an ankle-worn inertial sensor, 3D ankle-rotation was estimated and mapped into navigation of a computer-cursor in real-time (100 Hz), allowing subjects to navigate the computer-cursor to perform the iTMT. The ankle-sensor was also used for quantifying ankle-rotation velocity (representing slowness), its decline during the test (representing exhaustion), and ankle-velocity variability (representing movement inefficiency), as well as the power (representing weakness) generated during the test. Comparative assessments included Fried frailty phenotypes and gait assessment. Results: All subjects were able to complete the iTMT, with an average completion time of 125 ± 85 s. The iTMT-derived parameters were able to identify the presence and absence of slowness, exhaustion, weakness, and inactivity phenotypes (Cohen's d effect size = 0.90-1.40). The iTMT Velocity was significantly different between groups (d = 0.62-1.47). Significant correlation was observed between the iTMT Velocity and gait speed (r = 0.684 p < 0.001). The iTMT-derived parameters and age together enabled significant distinguishing of non-robust cases with area under curve of 0.834, sensitivity of 83%, and specificity of 67%. Conclusion: This study demonstrated a non-gait-based wearable platform to objectively quantify frailty phenotypes and determine physical frailty, using a quick and practical test. This platform may address the hurdles of conventional physical frailty phenotypes methods by replacing the conventional frailty walking test with an automated and objective process that reduces the time of assessment and is more practical for those with mobility limitations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-197
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Frailty
  • Frailty phenotype
  • Gait
  • Instrumented trail-making task
  • Virtual-reality Cognitive-motor test
  • Wearable

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


Dive into the research topics of 'Instrumented Trail-Making Task: Application of Wearable Sensor to Determine Physical Frailty Phenotypes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this