Global and regional associations of smaller cerebral gray and white matter volumes with gait in older people
Background: Gait impairments increase with advancing age and can lead to falls and loss of independence. Brain atrophy also occurs in older age and may contribute to gait decline. We aimed to investigate global and regional relationships of cerebral gray and white matter volumes with gait speed, and its determinants step length and cadence, in older people.
Methods: In a population-based study, participants aged >60 years without Parkinson's disease or brain infarcts underwent magnetic resonance imaging and gait measurements using a computerized walkway. Linear regression was used to study associations of total gray and white matter volumes with gait, adjusting for each other, age, sex, height and white matter hyperintensity volume. Other covariates considered in analyses included weight and vascular disease history. Voxel-based morphometry was used to study regional relationships of gray and white matter with gait.
Results: There were 305 participants, mean age 71.4 (6.9) years, 54% male, mean gait speed 1.16 (0.22) m/s. Smaller total gray matter volume was independently associated with poorer gait speed (p = 0.001) and step length (p<0.001), but not cadence. Smaller volumes of cortical and subcortical gray matter in bilateral regions important for motor control, vision, perception and memory were independently associated with slower gait speed and shorter steps. No global or regional associations were observed between white matter volume and gait independent of gray matter volume, white matter hyperintensity volume and other covariates.
Conclusion: Smaller gray matter volume in bilaterally distributed brain networks serving motor control was associated with slower gait speed and step length, but not cadence.
Publication titlePLoS ONE
Department/SchoolMenzies Institute for Medical Research
PublisherPublic Library of Science
Place of publicationUnited States
Rights statementCopyright 2014 The Authors-Distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, (CC BY 3.0 AU) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.