Monday 23 September 2019

How you walk might help doctors identify the type of dementia you have

A team of Newcastle University researchers, led by Dr Riona McArdle of the Brain And Movement (BAM) Group, have recently published new findings from a study showing that people with Lewy body dementia have a different walking pattern in comparison to patients with Alzheimer's disease.

For the study, researchers analysed the walk of 110 people, including 29 older adults whose cognition was intact, 36 with Alzheimer’s disease and 45 with Lewy body dementia. Patients with Lewy body dementia had a unique walking pattern in that they changed how long it took to take a step, or the length of their steps, more frequently than someone with Alzheimer’s disease, whose walking patterns rarely changed.

The participants took part in a simple walking test at the Human Movement Laboratory of the Clinical Ageing Research Unit (CARU), a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)-funded initiative jointly run by Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University.

Dr Riona McArdle, a Research Associate with Newcastle’s Brain & Movement Group, led the study, which was funded by the Alzheimer’s Society.

The research was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association on Friday 20th September 2019. The published research highlights that:

  • Alzheimer’s and Lewy body disease have unique signatures of gait impairment
  • Disease-specific gait impairments may reflect cognitive profiles and underlying pathology
  • A larger study with additional biomarkers and postmortem follow-up is required
  • More work is required to validate gait as an inexpensive clinical tool for differential diagnosis

Also involved in the study was Dr Paul Donaghy, an NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer in Old Age Psychiatry within the Newcastle BRC Dementia theme, who will shortly be taking up a position as a BRC Intermediate Clinical Fellow.

Newcastle University was recently recognised as the world’s top performing academic institution in terms of its expertise in dementia with Lewy bodies, according to data analysis published by Expertscape Review.

A full press release for the published research is available.