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Gait changes may indicate a decline in cognitive function

July 16, 2012
by Sandra Hoban
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Research indicates that while difficulty walking is not an inevitable part of aging, it is a common problem among older adults. In a report given at the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference, Stephanie A. Bridenbaugh, MD, of the Basel Mobility Center in Basel, Switzerland, discussed the findings of a cohort study that analyzed the gait patterns of participants ranging from cognitively healthy to those with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Alzheimer’s group was further subdivided into mild, moderate or severe categories. On an electronic walkway with almost 30,000 pressure sensors, all participants (average age: 77) performed one “normal” walk and two that required dual tasks: walking while counting backwards out loud and naming animals while walking.

Investigators found that as cognitive decline progressed, gait became slower and more variable. When dual tasking, all groups exhibited a slower gait. Bridenbaugh noted in a statement: “Those with Alzheimer’s dementia walked slower than those with MCI [mild cognitive impairment], who in turn walked slower than those who were cognitively healthy.”

In addition to the gait analysis, other studies found correlations that specific aspects in gait, along with gait velocity, cadence and stride may be associated with cognitive decline.

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