Objective: To examine changes in equilibrium and limb coordination in normal aging, mild cognitive impairment, and moderate cognitive impairment associated with early probable Alzheimer's disease (AD), by means of parametric clinical measures.
Design: Case series
Setting: Out-patient clinic.
Participants: A consecutive sample of 365 community-residing ambulatory volunteers (137 men, 228 women; mean age 70.4 +/- 9.4 years; mean educational attainment 14.6 +/- 3.1 years), who were followed in an ongoing longitudinal study of aging and AD, comprising cognitively intact individuals, persons with mild cognitive impairment, and patients with mild AD.
Measurements: For general magnitude of cognitive function, the Global Deterioration Scale (GDS). For cognition, the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). Equilibrium was assessed with parametric measurements of single leg stance (SLS) and tandem walking (TW). Limb coordination was assessed with parametric measurements of foot tapping (FT), alternating pronation and supination (PS), and sequential finger to thumb tapping (FTH).
Main results: After adjustment for age, persons with mild cognitive impairment or mild AD had significantly poorer performance on parametric clinical tests of equilibrium and limb coordination compared with cognitively intact individuals (P < .05).
Conclusions: Changes in equilibrium and limb coordination are clinically demonstrable in persons with mild cognitive impairment and mild AD using simple parametric tests. Such tests could potentially identify individuals with increased risk of falling. Early diagnosis and treatment of conditions that can jeopardize equilibrium and limb coordination, as well as balance and coordination training, might help cognitively impaired older people to maintain optimal function and may decrease the risk of falls and injuries.