Gait in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
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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.
Key wordsgait attention dual task cognitive function ADHD
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