Progress in Geriatrics
Gait and Cognition: A Complementary Approach to Understanding Brain Function and the Risk of Falling
Article first published online: 30 OCT 2012
© 2012, Copyright the Authors Journal compilation © 2012, The American Geriatrics Society
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
Volume 60, Issue 11, pages 2127–2136, November 2012
How to Cite
J Am Geriatr Soc 60:2127–2136, 2012.
- Issue published online: 13 NOV 2012
- Article first published online: 30 OCT 2012
- mild cognitive impairment;
- cognitive function;
- gait variability
Until recently, clinicians and researchers have performed gait assessments and cognitive assessments separately when evaluating older adults, but increasing evidence from clinical practice, epidemiological studies, and clinical trials shows that gait and cognition are interrelated in older adults. Quantifiable alterations in gait in older adults are associated with falls, dementia, and disability. At the same time, emerging evidence indicates that early disturbances in cognitive processes such as attention, executive function, and working memory are associated with slower gait and gait instability during single- and dual-task testing and that these cognitive disturbances assist in the prediction of future mobility loss, falls, and progression to dementia. This article reviews the importance of the interrelationship between gait and cognition in aging and presents evidence that gait assessments can provide a window into the understanding of cognitive function and dysfunction and fall risk in older people in clinical practice. To this end, the benefits of dual-task gait assessments (e.g., walking while performing an attention-demanding task) as a marker of fall risk are summarized. A potential complementary approach for reducing the risk of falls by improving certain aspects of cognition through nonpharmacological and pharmacological treatments is also presented. Untangling the relationship between early gait disturbances and early cognitive changes may be helpful in identifying older adults at risk of experiencing mobility decline, falls, and progression to dementia.