Nearly 6 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s, and the number of related deaths is up 145 percent. Early diagnosis is critical for intervention, so Texas researchers are in clinical trials using a system that measures and predicts those at increased risk.
Mini Jacob, MD, PHD., Asst. Professor, University of Texas Health San Antonio said, “What we are trying to understand is, by examining gait, will we be able to capture very, very early risk.”
Researchers use this gait mat to measure distance and variability between steps, as well as walking speed.
Embedded sensors transmit data to a nearby computer, creating a unique walking signature for each participant. Patients follow a direction that stimulates the cognitive part of the brain.
This dual-tasking: Walking and thinking, uses the same regions of the brain. So, researchers say slowing down or stumbling on the mat can indicate a cognitive decline.
James Cogan said, “If I think I slowed down walking or almost have to stop. And then, if I concentrate on my walking, I cannot think. Many times I’m out there in my shop and I come in the house, and when I get inside, I say, what did I come in here for.”
Because forgetfulness like that is common in older people, researchers need more substantive predictors of Alzheimer’s. Like this pairing of gait and cognition.
“We hope to be able to identify the pathways –how is gait related to changes in the brain. And, hopefully, we’ll also come up with some interventions—preventive interventions,” said Doctor Jacob.
The University of Texas Health San Antonio hopes to continue their trials through a multi-site study called Mark-VCID that will validate markers of vascular disease in the brain that contribute to dementia.