BACKGROUND: Gait is thought to have a cognitive component, but the current evidence in healthy elderly is mixed. We studied the association between multiple gait and cognitive measures in a cohort of older people. METHODS: One hundred and seventy-eight cognitively healthy participants from the Whitehall II Imaging Sub-study had a detailed clinical and neuropsychological assessment, as well as an MRI scan. Spatiotemporal and variability gait measures were derived from two 10 m walks at self-selected speed. We did a linear regression analysis, entering potential confounders with backwards elimination of variables with p ≥ 0.1. The remaining variables were then entered into a second regression before doing a stepwise analysis of cognitive measures, entering variables with p < 0.05 and removing those with p ≥ 0.1. RESULTS: Amongst absolute gait measures, only greater stride length was associated with better performance on the Trail Making Test A (p = 0.023) and the Boston Naming Test (p = 0.042). The stride time variability was associated with performance on the Trail Making Test A (p = 0.031). Age was associated with poorer walking speed (p = 0.014) and stride time (p = 0.011), female sex with shorter stride time (p = 0.000) and shorter double stance (p = 0.005). Length of full-time education was associated with faster walking speed (p = 0.012) and shorter stride time (p = 0.045), and a history of muscular-skeletal disease with slower walking speed (p = 0.01) and shorter stride length (p = 0.015). Interestingly, volume of white matter hyperintensities (WMH) on FLAIR MRI images did not contribute independently to any of the gait measures (p > 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: No strong relationship between gait and non-motor cognition was observed in a cognitively healthy, high functioning sample of elderly. Nevertheless, we found some relationships with spatial, but not temporal gait which warrant further investigation. WMH made no independent contributionto gait.
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Cognition, Gait, Healthy elderly, Older adults, Walking, Aged, Cognition, Cohort Studies, Female, Gait, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Middle Aged, Neuropsychological Tests, Prospective Studies, Walking, Walking Speed