Walking in daily life places high demands on the interplay between cognitive and motor functions. A well-functioning dual-tasking ability is thus essential for walking safely. The aims were to study longitudinal changes in gait function during single- and dual-tasking over a period of two years among people with initially mild AD (n=21). Data were collected on three occasions, twelve months apart. An optical motion capture system was used for three-dimensional gait analysis. Gait parameters were examined at comfortable gait speed during single-tasking, dual-tasking naming names, and naming animals. The dual-task cost for gait speed was pronounced at baseline (names 26%, animals 35%), and remained so during the study period. A significant (p<0.05) longitudinal decline in gait speed and step length during single- and dual-tasking was observed, whereas double support time, step width and step height showed inconsistent results. Systematic visual examination of the motion capture files revealed that dual-tasking frequently resulted in gait disturbances. Three main characteristics of such disturbances were identified: Temporal disturbance, Spatial disturbance and Instability in single stance. These aberrant gait performances may affect gait stability and increase the risk of falling. Furthermore, the observed gait disturbances can contribute to understanding and explaining previous reported gait variability among individuals with AD. However, the role that dual-task testing and aberrant dual-task gait performance play in the identification of individuals with early signs of cognitive impairment and in predicting fall risk in AD remains to be studied.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Dementia; Dual-task; Gait; Longitudinal.
Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.