Gait and risk of falls associated with frontal cognitive functions at different stages of Alzheimer's disease

Flávia Gomes de Melo Coelho, Florindo Stella, Larissa Pires de Andrade, Fabio Augusto Barbieri, Ruth Ferreira Santos-Galduróz, Sebastião Gobbi, José Luiz Riani Costa, Lilian Teresa Bucken Gobbi
Neuropsychology, Development, and Cognition. Section B, Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition 2012, 19 (5): 644-56
The decline in frontal cognitive functions contributes to alterations of gait and increases the risk of falls in patients with dementia, a category which included Alzheimer's disease (AD). The objective of the present study was to compare the gait parameters and the risk of falls among patients at different stages of AD, and to relate these variables with cognitive functions. This is a cross-sectional study with 23 patients with mild and moderate AD. The Clinical Dementia Rating was used to classify the dementia severity. The kinematic parameters of gait (cadence, stride length, and stride speed) were analyzed under two conditions: (a) single task (free gait) and (b) dual task (walking and counting down). The risk of falls was evaluated using the Timed Up-and-Go test. The frontal cognitive functions were evaluated using the Frontal Assessment Battery (FAB), the Clock Drawing Test (CDT) and the Symbol Search Subtest. The patients who were at the moderate stage suffered reduced performance in their stride length and stride speed in the single task and had made more counting errors in the dual task and still had a higher fall risk. Both the mild and the moderate patients exhibited significant decreases in stride length, stride speed and cadence in the dual task. Was detected a significant correlation between CDT, FAB, and stride speed in the dual task condition. We also found a significant correlation between subtest Similarities, FAB and cadence in the dual task condition. The dual task produced changes in the kinematic parameters of gait for the mild and moderate AD patients and the gait alterations are related to frontal cognitive functions, particularly executive functions.

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