Gait velocity is an indicator of cognitive performance in healthy middle-aged adults

Artin Jabourian, Sylvie Lancrenon, Catherine Delva, Alain Perreve-Genet, Jean-Pierre Lablanchy, Maritza Jabourian
PloS One 2014, 9 (8): e103211
Psychomotor retardation, especially motor and cognitive slowing down, has been described many times in the elderly but to our knowledge, has never been examined in healthy middle-aged adults. The present study explores whether walking time may provide an early signal of cognitive performance, using 266 healthy adults ([18-65] years old, mean age: 45.7±12.9 years) who were also subdivided in 2 groups: under or over 50. Walking time (50 meters) and cognitive performances (mini-mental state examination, Benton Visual Retention Test and Rey Complex Figure) were assessed; total psychometric score was the sum of individual test scores. Analyses were controlled for age, gender, education level, height and weight. The mean psychometric scores were within the normal range. A substantial proportion of subjects exhibited low performance in some aspects of visuospatial memory, particularly in the older subset. In the total population, walking time was negatively correlated with all cognitive tests, particularly to total psychometric score (R = -0.817, p<0.0001); the unique contribution of walking time on all cognitive scores was very high (delta R-squared = 0.496). In the older subset, performances on walk and cognition were lower than in the younger subset. Total psychometric score showed the strongest correlation with walking time in the older subset (R = -0.867; p<0.001). In all subsets, walking time was the main explanatory variable of the total psychometric score (delta R-squared: ≤ 49 = 0.361; ≥50 = 0.613). These findings indicate that i) a significant proportion of adults without cognitive complaints exhibit low cognitive performance including visuospatial memory and longer walking time, ii) cognitive functioning is strongly correlated to walking time in healthy middle-aged adults, iii) gait velocity (GV) could be an indicator of cognitive performance in some important cognitive domains. These results warrant further investigation because such data may represent a marker for the detection of middle-aged adults who are at risk for further cognitive decline.

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