Gait and dementia: moving beyond the notion of gait apraxia

J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2007;114(10):1253-8. doi: 10.1007/s00702-007-0743-3. Epub 2007 May 18.


Highest level gait disorders are produced by pathology in one or more structures in the cortical-basal ganglia-thalamocortical loop, which plays an important role in producing movements and postural synergies that meet personal desires and environmental constraints. Virtually all patients with dementia have pathology in one or more components of this loop, so highest level gait disorders are common in patients with dementia. The terminology surrounding these gait disorders is unnecessarily complex and too heavily influenced by the controversial concept of gait apraxia. Straightforward descriptive diagnostic criteria are needed. To this end, four core clinical features of highest level gait disorders are proposed: 1) inappropriate (counterproductive) or bizarre limb movement, postural synergies, and interaction with the environment, 2) qualitatively variable performance, influenced greatly by the environment and emotion, 3) hesitation and freezing, and 4) absent or inappropriate (counterproductive) rescue reactions. These core features follow logically from the physiology of the cortical-basal ganglia-thalamocortical loop and should be regarded as signs of pathology in this loop. A clinical rating scale based on these features should be developed to facilitate clinical diagnosis and clinicopathological correlation, while avoiding the ambiguities and controversies of gait apraxia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Basal Ganglia / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Dementia / pathology
  • Dementia / physiopathology*
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Gait Apraxia / pathology
  • Gait Apraxia / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Thalamus / pathology