Gait in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
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- Leitner, Y., Barak, R., Giladi, N. et al. J Neurol (2007) 254: 1330. doi:10.1007/s00415-006-0522-3
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Cognitive function and the loading of attention presumably play an important role in gait as well as in fall risk, but previous work has not demonstrated this in any cause-and-effect way.
To gain insight into the relationship between gait and cognitive function, we sought: (1) To compare the gait rhythmicity (stride time variability) of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to controls, (2) To test the hypothesis that dual tasking leads to increased stride-to-stride variability in ADHD, and (3) To test whether pharmacological treatment that relieves ADHD symptoms reduces stride-to-stride variability.
Patients and Methods
Gait was quantified in children with ADHD and in age-matched healthy controls under single task and dual task conditions on three occasions: off medications (both groups) and, in the ADHD group, after double blinded, randomized administration of methylphenidate (MPH) or placebo.
At baseline, children with ADHD tended to walk with increased stride-to-stride variability compared to the controls during the single task condition (p = 0.09). During dual task walking, stride time variability was significantly reduced in the children with ADHD (p < 0.004), but not in the controls. In the children with ADHD, the placebo did not significantly affect stride-to-stride variability or the dual tasking response. In contrast, stride time variability was significantly reduced on MPH (p < 0.001) such that dual tasking no longer affected variability.
The present findings demonstrate alterations in the gait of children with ADHD, support a cause and effect link between cognitive function and gait, and suggest that enhancement of attention abilities may, in certain populations, improve gait rhythmicity.