The way you walk may be a symptom of dementia


The researchers evaluated the walking patterns and brain function of 500 participants currently enrolled in clinical trials and found how walking pattern changes in neurodegenerative conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The recent study compared gait impairments across the cognitive spectrum, including people with Subjective Cognitive Impairment, Parkinson’s Disease, Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia and Frontotemporal dementia, as well as cognitively healthy controls.

Four independent gait patterns were identified: rhythm, pace, variability and postural control. Only high gait variability was associated with lower cognitive performance and it identified Alzheimer’s disease with 70 per cent accuracy. Gait variability means the stride-to-stride fluctuations in distance and timing that happen when we walk.

Having gait variability as a motor marker for cognitive decline and different types of conditions could allow for gait assessment to be used as a clinical test, for example having patients use wearable technology.


Gait variability across neurodegenerative and cognitive disorders: Results from the Canadian Consortium of Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) and the Gait and Brain Study



Gait impairment is common in neurodegenerative disorders. Specifically, gait variability—the stride‐to‐stride fluctuations in distance and time—has been associated with neurodegeneration and cognitive impairment. However, quantitative comparisons of gait impairments across the cognitive spectrum of dementias have not been systematically investigated.


Older adults (N = 500) with subjective cognitive impairment, Parkinson disease (PD), mild cognitive impairment (MCI), PD‐MCI, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), PD‐dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia, as well cognitive normal controls, who were assessed for their gait and cognitive performance.


Factor analyses grouped 11 quantitative gait parameters and identified four independent gait domains: rhythm, pace, variability, and postural control, for group comparisons and classification analysis. Among these domains, only high gait variability was associated with lower cognitive performance and accurately discriminated AD from other neurodegenerative and cognitive conditions.


Our findings indicate that high gait variability is a marker of cognitive‐cortical dysfunction, which can help to identify Alzheimer’s disease dementia.


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