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Gait problems linked with Alzheimer's symptoms

27th January 2006

A new study in the US has suggested that gait impairment may have an important link to Alzheimer's disease.

According to experts from the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago, neurofibrillary tangles in a part of the brain which suffers cell loss in Parkinson's patients are also linked to balance difficulties, or gait impairment.

These tangles are an abnormality which is often seen in Alzheimer's sufferers and the study revealed that the more tangle pathology in the area of the substantia nigra, the more unsteady a person is likely to be on their feet.

"The mild Parkinsonian signs [such as gait impairment] associated with aging have been historically viewed simply as an expected sign of aging rather than a disease process," explains Dr Julie Schneider from the Center.

Writing in the Annals of Neurology, Dr Schneider continues: "Previous studies have shown that at least one of these signs, gait impairment, has harmful effects in older persons, and our current study suggests why this may be the case."

She concludes: "This study shows that the spectrum of Alzheimer's disease is broader than we thought and may be more common than previously recognised. Alzheimer's disease doesn't just cause memory and cognitive problems, it is also causing motor problems in aging."