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[NOT STRAIGHTFORWARD] Curved walking may reveal MCI

How an individual walks on a curved path may indicate mild cognitive impairment (MCI), according to a recent study. Gait analysis -- examining the way an individual stands and walks-- is emerging as a non-invasive complement to cognitive assessments that aid in early diagnosis and management. In clinical settings, gait and balance tests typically focus on a straight walking path.

For this study, researchers from Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, instead focused on curved path walking, which they say is a more natural, yet complex, activity. Straight walking is a rhythmic and simple activity, whereas walking on a curving path requires greater cognitive and motor skills, such as transition time to change directions and correct balance.

The study included 25 participants with MCI and 30 controls without MCI. Overall, the mean age was 69 and about 70% were women.

Researchers used a depth camera, which can detect and track 25 joints of body movement, to record participants’ gait while performing the two different walking tests (straight versus curve). Signals from the 25 body joints were processed to extract 50 gait markers for each test, and these markers were compared between the two groups using statistical analyses.

Results showed that curve walking resulted in greater challenges for the MCI group, and it outperformed straight walking in detecting MCI -- specifically, 31 of 50 gait markers (62%) were greater for the MCI group than the control group when the walking tests changed from straight walking to curve walking, and 13 markers showed significant differences between the two groups.

“The MCI group exhibited a markedly lower average step length and speed during curve walking, coupled with higher variability across most micro-gait markers,” said senior author Behnaz Ghoraani, PhD. “The MCI group showed diminished symmetry and regularity in both step and stride lengths for curved walking. They also required extended double support time in various areas, especially while changing directions, which resulted in reduced step speed.”

The system to record gait in older adults employs a non-invasive, low-cost, non-wearable and easy-setting depth camera, which is a crucial step in enhancing patient care and intervention strategies, according to the authors.

To download the full study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports, click here

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