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Diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases through walking patterns

The walking patterns of the elderly can indicate cognitive problems and even help diagnose different types of neurodegenerative diseases. Alzheimer’s disease could possibly also be identified early on the basis of the corridor.

The way the elderly walk could be used to enable early diagnosis of various types of neurodegenerative diseases, according to research conducted by researchers from the Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University in Canada. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal “Alzheimer’s & Dementia”.

Walking behavior and brain function were analyzed

For the study, the walking behavior and brain functions of 500 participating people were examined, who are currently enrolled in various clinical studies. For the first time, the researchers analyzed how different types of dementia can be diagnosed more precisely with the help of different gait patterns in older people and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease can be detected early.

Engine power enables diagnosis

“We have long had indications that cognitive problems such as poor memory and executive dysfunction can be harbingers of dementia. Now we see that motor performance, especially the way we walk, can help diagnose different types of neurodegenerative diseases, ”emphasizes study author Dr. Manuel Montero-Odasso from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University of Canada in a press release.

Dr. Montero-Odasso is known worldwide for his research on the relationship between mobility and cognitive decline in old age. As the head of the Mobility, Exercise and Cognition (MEC) team in London, he pioneered the development of new diagnostic approaches and treatments to prevent and combat early dementia.

The current study compared gait disorders 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, the team explains.

Connection of gait variability with lower cognitive performance?

Four independent gait patterns could be identified. These included rhythm, tempo, variability and the so-called postural control (ability of the human body to maintain an upright body position under the influence of gravity). It turned out that high gait variability was associated with lower cognitive performance, which helped identify Alzheimer’s with 70 percent accuracy, the researchers report. The so-called gait variability includes changes from step-to-step in length or time that occur when walking.

“This is the first strong evidence that gait variability is an important marker for processes that take place in areas of the brain that are associated with both cognitive impairment and motor control,” explains study author Dr. Frederico Perruccini-Faria from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

High gait variability helps identify Alzheimer’s

“We have shown that high gait variability as a marker for cognitive-cortical dysfunction can reliably identify Alzheimer’s disease in comparison to other neurodegenerative diseases,” adds the expert.

Cognitive-cortical dysfunction affects people’s ability to perform multiple tasks at the same time. This includes, for example, speaking while walking or cutting vegetables while talking to the family, explain the experts.

Gait assessment as a clinical test?

Establishing gait variability as a motor marker for cognitive decline and different types of symptoms could make it possible to use gait assessment as a clinical test, for example by using wearable technology to detect gait, explains the research team. The gait variability can then be measured in a similar way to, for example, cardiac arrhythmias in clinics and used for medical assessment, adds Dr. Montero-Odasso added. (as)

Author and source information

This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.


  • Frederico Pieruccini‐Faria, Sandra E. Black, Mario Masellis, Eric E. Smith, Quincy J. Almeida et al.: Gait variability across neurodegenerative and cognitive disorders: Results from the Canadian Consortium of Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) and the Gait and Brain Study, in Alzheimer’s & Dementia (veröffentlicht 16.02.2021), Alzheimer’s & Dementia
  • Lawson Health Research Institute: Differences in walking patterns could predict type of cognitive decline in older adults (veröffentlicht 16.02.2021), Lawson Health Research Institute

Important NOTE:
This article is for general guidance only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.

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