Underexplored cause of dementia may be diagnosed with simple walking test

Written by Abigail Sawyer, Future Science Group

Researchers from Ludwig Maximilian University (Munich, Germany) have now established a simple walking test to differentiate between idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (iNPH) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP).
iNPH is a root of dementia, caused by excess fluid in the brain. It can sometimes be reversed, however, is often misdiagnosed as its symptoms are similar to PSP, which is caused by damage to nerve cells in the brain, rendering it incurable.

“It is important that people with idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus are accurately diagnosed so they can be treated, and their health can improve,” explained study author, Charlotte Selge (Ludwig Maximilian University).

The study, published in Neurology, involved 27 individuals diagnosed with iNPH, 38  PSP patients and 38 healthy individuals. The researchers assessed participant’s manner of walking on a pressure-sensitive carpet, both normally and when performing tasks including counting backwards and carrying a tray.

The team discovered differences in walking between the participants with iNPH and those with PSP, specifically, the participants with iNPH performed better in the exercises than those with PSP. When counting backwards, those with iNPH had a reduction in walking speed of 17% compared to 34% for those with PSP.

When the researchers considered walking only, they correctly diagnosed PSP and INPH 82% of the time. Including the dual-task tests, diagnostic accuracy increased to 97%.

“Our findings suggest that adding these dual-task tests would be an inexpensive and effective way to improve diagnosis of iNPH,” continued Selge.

“Future studies may want to increase the complexity of tasks to see if they provide even more accuracy as well as insight into how the two diseases affect gait.”

Source: Selge C, Schoeberl F and Zwergal A et al. Gait analysis in PSP and NPH dual-task conditions make the difference. Neurology doi: