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Dual Gait Analysis Can Aid Early Diagnosis of Dementia

Dual Gait Analysis Can Aid Early Diagnosis of Dementia

A new approach that assesses ambulation while performing a cognitively demanding task is an effective predictor of progression to dementia.

In a new study, researchers at Canada’s Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University discovered gait analysis while simultaneously performing mental tasks is a new way to assess cognitive decline.

To date, there has been no definitive way for health care professionals to forecast the onset of dementia in a patient with memory complaints. Experts believe early detection of dementia can lead to halting its progression.

Dr. Manuel Montero-Odasso, a geriatrician and associate professor in the Division of Geriatric Medicine at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, is leading the “Gait and Brain Study.”

His team is assessing up to 150 seniors with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a slight decline of memory and other mental functions which is considered a pre-dementia syndrome, in order to detect an early predictor of cognitive and mobility decline and progression to dementia.

“Finding methods to detect dementia early is vital to our ability to slow or halt the progression of the disease,” said Montero-Odasso.

The study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, followed participants for six years and included bi-annual visits.

Researchers asked participants to walk while simultaneously performing a cognitively demanding task, such as counting backwards or naming animals.

They have discovered that individuals with MCI that slow down more than 20 percent while performing a cognitively demanding task are at a higher risk of progressing to dementia.

“While walking has long been considered an automatic motor task, emerging evidence suggests cognitive function plays a key role in the control of walking, avoidance of obstacles, and maintenance of navigation,” Montero-Odasso said.

“We believe that gait, as a complex brain-motor task, provides a golden window of opportunity to see brain function.”

The “gait cost,” or speed at which participants completed a single task (walking) versus a dual-task, was higher in those MCI individuals with worse episodic memory and who struggle with executive functions such as attention keeping and time management.

“Our results reveal a ‘motor signature’ of cognitive impairment that can be used to predict dementia,” said Montero-Odasso.

“It is conceivable that we will be able to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias before people even have significant memory loss. Our hope is to combine these methods with promising new medications to slow or halt the progression of MCI to dementia.”

The study appears in the journal JAMA Neurology.

Source: Lawson Health Research Institute

Dual Gait Analysis Can Aid Early Diagnosis of Dementia

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Dual Gait Analysis Can Aid Early Diagnosis of Dementia. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 24 May 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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