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2014 Grants - Ikram
Gait Dysfunction as a Preclinical Sign of Alzheimer’s Disease
Mohammad Ikram, M.D., Ph.D.
Erasmus Medical Center
2014 New Investigator Research Grant
One of the most important goals of current Alzheimer’s disease research is to find ways to predict who is likely to develop the disease in the future. This is important because by the time someone receives a diagnosis, significant irreversible brain damage has already occurred. It is becoming increasingly clear that an Alzheimer’s treatment may be more effective at preventing the disease progression if therapy begins several years before symptoms become noticeable.
Currently, diagnosis relies on observations of symptoms and measurements of brain function such as thinking and memory. Gait, the characteristic features of how a person walks, is controlled by the brain, and subtle changes in gait may serve as evidence of brain damage in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Mohammad Ikram, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues have proposed to research this idea in a large group of healthy, older people already enrolled in the “Rotterdam Study” – a population-based study in the Netherlands that investigates risk factors for disease in the elderly.
Between 2009 and 2011, participants in the Rotterdam Study underwent gait assessment, and also had cognitive testing and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of their brains. Dr. Ikram and colleagues have proposed to re-assess gait, cognitive function and brain imaging in these same participants five years later. The participants will also be screened for onset of dementia. The goal of these studies is to determine if abnormalities in gait can predict subsequent development of brain dysfunction and Alzheimer’s disease. This study could lead to simple and reliable ways to identify people who have brain changes associated with later development of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. The development of tests for preclinical signs of Alzheimer’s disease will be valuable in ensuring individuals at risk are treated at the earliest stages of the disease.