Wednesday, 1 August 2012

What your gait can tell you about your brain


There is more and more evidence that brain and body functioning are closely related. Improving our physical fitness also seems to improve our brain fitness, as we have reported before. Only recently, researchers found thinking skills like memory, planning or information processing to decline almost in parallel with the ability to walk fluidly.

Stephanie A. Bridenbaugh, chief of the Basel Mobility Center at the University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland, and her colleagues conducted a study in which they compared healthy individuals’ gait to that of persons with cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The participants of the study walked down a walkway that was equipped with various measuring devices while performing cognitive tasks. Participants with cognitive impairment showed changes in their gait while executing the cognitive tasks. Speed and regularity of their gait changed. In a video, Stephanie Bridenbaugh explains the study and its implications.


She comes to the conclusion that with gait analysis, we can measure walking impairments not visible to the naked eye. But what is really exciting is that dual task paradigms can detect subtle gait differences and alert us to problems of both gait and cognition. Gait worsens as cognition worsens. The results emphasise the importance of movement interventions to maintain cognition.

There is also an article on this study in the New York Times.

This research once more underpins how closely related brain functioning and physical activity are. Physical activity seems to help maintain our brain function. Or maybe it is helpful to exercise both together. For example, go for a run, and while doing so, exercise your brain by carrying out mental arithmetic.

But what if physical activity is actually the only reason we have a brain for? Read more on this topic in next week’s blog post!

2 comments:

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