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Background: Walking in real-life situation requires an ability to rapidly change gait speed to achieve task goals or overcome environmental constraints. Gait speed transition may be compromised in older adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) as it requires high demands on motor and cognitive integration to maintain gait stability. Gait variability is proposed to be a robust marker of cortical flexibility in regulating gait. Therefore, assessing gait variability during rapid increase in gait speed may hold promise in detecting deficits related to gait control among older adults with MCI.
Objectives: To investigate spatiotemporal parameters of gait variability during unexpected gait speed transition in older adults with and without MCI.
Materials and methods: Seventeen older adults with MCI (mean age=69.12±4.24 yrs.) and 17 cognitively intact controls (mean age=68.88±5.31 yrs.) participated in the study. The slow to fast speed transition was measured by asking participants to start walking at a slow pace and then instantaneously changing to fast pace in response to an unexpected auditory cue. Mean and coefficients of variation (CV) of step length, step width, step time and swing time were measured during slow to fast speed transition using 3-dimensional motion analysis. The Mann-Whitney U test was conducted to compare spatiotemporal gait parameters between the two groups. The statistical significance was set at p<0.05.
Results: Older adults with MCI demonstrated greater variability of step width (MCI group=38.81±9.44, Control group=31.45±7.67, p=0.04) and swing time (MCI group=16.02±5.11, Control group=12.14±3.52, p=0.02) than controls during fast speed transition. However, mean spatiotemporal parameters were similar between the two groups.
Conclusion: Older adults with MCI demonstrated increased step width and swing time variability during slow to fast gait speed transition. This finding suggests an impaired ability to regulate gait consistency which may predispose them to falls.
Personal views expressed by the contributors in their articles are not necessarily those of the Journal of Associated Medical Sciences, Faculty of Associated Medical Sciences, Chiang Mai University.
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