Three new studies reveal abnormality in walking are one of the first signs for cognitive impairment
Several new studies have found changes in gait among the elderly are one of the first signs of cognitive decline and possibly could develop before impairments could be noticed on neuropsychological tests.View slideshow: Preventing cognitive decline
The new studies were presented on Sunday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver, Canada.
Dr. Stephanie A. Bridenbaugh , MD, Head Basel Mobility Center Dept. of Acute Geriatrics University of Basel Faculty of Medicine Basel, Switzerland, led the four year Swiss study in which found instability in walking and decreased ability to walk steadily while performing a second task were each linked to higher cognitive impairment on standard neurocognitive tests.
For the study researchers had followed the walking ability of around 1,200 elderly memory clinic outpatients and compared the results to the walking ability of healthy people.
Test results revealed that a slowing pace and change in walk was associated to progression of cognitive decline, either the mental state referred to as mild cognitive impairment or developed Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Bridenbaugh explained in a news release submitted by the conference, noted by Health Day, "Those with Alzheimer's dementia walked slower than those with MCI, who in turn walked slower than those who were cognitively healthy.”
Dr. Rodolfo Savica, Assistant Professor of Neurology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and fellow associates conducted the second study and had found alike results.
The researchers looked at walking patterns (changes in pace and stride) of over 1,300 patients for a period of fifteen months.
Over the fifteen months two or more sessions involved tests of mental and walking skills with each patient in study.
Researchers had found changes in walking patterns were directly associated to their memory loss.
Dr. Savica remarked in the news release "These results support a possible role of gait changes as an early predictor of cognitive impairment.”
The third study led by Professor Kenichi Meguro, Tohoku University School of Medicine and fellow associates had found their results reflected the other two studies.
This study consisted of 525 men and women aged 75 years and older. Neurological, psychological and physical tests were administered to all participants in order to evaluate the possible association between gait and dementia.
Professor Meguro states in the release "Gait velocity was significantly decreased as the severity of dementia symptoms increased.” "Gait should no longer be considered a simple, automatic motor activity that is independent of cognition. They are linked."
Dr. Bridenbaugh remarked the type of quantitative analysis that had been used in these studies should be part of regular, comprehensive evaluation of elderly patients.
Even though the studies did establish an association between walking ability and cognitive decline, researchers note it did not show a cause and effect connection.