Walking may be a key clinical tool in helping medics accurately identify the specific type of dementia a patient has, pioneering research has revealed.
For the first time, scientists at Newcastle University have shown that people with Alzheimer’s disease or Lewy body dementia have unique walking patterns that signal subtle differences between the two conditions.
The research, published today in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, shows that people with Lewy body dementia change their walking steps more—varying step time and length—and are asymmetric when they move, in comparison to those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Ríona McArdle, Post-Doctoral Researcher at Newcastle University’s Faculty of Medical Sciences, led the Alzheimer’s Society-funded research.
She said: “The way we walk can reflect changes in thinking and memory that highlight problems in our brain, such as dementia.
“Correctly identifying what type of dementia someone has is important for clinicians and researchers as it allows patients to be given the most appropriate treatment for their needs as soon as possible.
“The results from this study are exciting as they suggest that walking could be a useful tool to add to the diagnostic toolbox for dementia.
“It is a key development as a more accurate diagnosis means that we know that people are getting the right treatment, care and management for the dementia they have.”
Current diagnosis of the two types of dementia is made through identifying different symptoms and, when required, a brain scan.
More information: Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, DOI: 10.1016/j.jalz.2019.06.4953
Provided by Newcastle University