(HealthDay News) – For elderly patients, walking speed and its variability may help distinguish individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) from those with normal cognition.

To investigate whether walking speed and its variability can distinguish those with MCI from those with intact cognition, Hiroko Dodge, PhD, from the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, and colleagues assessed walking speed using passive infrared sensors in the homes of elderly participants from the Intelligent Systems for Assessing Aging Change cohort study. Participants included 54 with intact cognition, 31 with nonamnestic MCI, and eight patients with amnestic MCI at baseline. The weekly mean speed was analyzed with latent trajectory models, and walking speed variability (coefficient of variation [COV]) was assessed.

During a mean follow-up of 2.6 years, the researchers found that trajectory models identified three trajectories of mean weekly walking speed: fast, moderate, and slow. Participants with nonamnestic MCI were significantly more likely to be in the slow-speed group than the moderate- or fast-speed groups. Four distinct trajectories were identified in the COV. Participants with nonamnestic MCI were more likely to be in the lowest or highest baseline COV groups, rather than the relatively stable middle groups.

“Walking speed and its daily variability may be an early marker of the development of MCI,” the authors write. “These and other real-time measures of function may offer novel ways of detecting transition phases leading to dementia.”

The study was partly funded by the Intel Corporation.

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