Background: The interrelationships between gait, cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD), and cognitive impairments in aging are not well-understood-despite their common co-occurrence.
Objective: To systematically review studies of gait impairment in CSVD, pre-dementia, and dementia, and to identify key gaps for future research and novel pathways toward intervention.
Methods: A Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA)-guided search strategy was implemented in PubMed to identify relevant studies. Potential articles (n = 263) published prior to 1 December 2021 were screened by two reviewers. Studies with sample sizes >20 and including some adults over > 65 years (n = 202) were included.
Results: The key findings were that (1) adverse gait and cognitive outcomes were associated with several (rather than select) CSVD pathologies distributed across the brain, and (2) poor gait and CSVD pathologies were more strongly associated with dementia with a vascular, rather than an Alzheimer's disease-related, cause.
Discussion: A better understanding of the interrelationships between gait performance in CSVD, pre-dementia, and dementia requires studies examining (1) comprehensive patterns in the clinical manifestations of CSVD, (2) racially/ethnically diverse samples, (3) samples followed for extended periods of time or across the adult life span, (4) non-traditional CSVD neuroimaging markers (e.g. resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)), and (5) continuous (e.g. wearable sensors) and complex (e.g. dual-task) walking performance.
Keywords: Cerebral small vessel disease; aging; cognition; cognitive impairment; dementia; gait; gait abnormalities.