Acute change in gait speed while performing a mental task [dual-task gait cost (DTC)], and hyperintensity magnetic resonance imaging signals in white matter are both important disability predictors in older individuals with history of stroke (poststroke). It is still unclear, however, whether DTC is associated with overall hyperintensity volume from specific major brain regions in poststroke.
This is a cohort study with a total of 123 older (69 ± 7 years of age) participants with history of stroke were included from the Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative. Participants were clinically assessed and had gait performance assessed under single- and dual-task conditions. Structural neuroimaging data were analyzed to measure both, white matter hyperintensity (WMH) and normal appearing volumes. Percentage of WMH volume in frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes as well as subcortical hyperintensities in basal ganglia + thalamus were the main outcomes. Multivariate models investigated associations between DTC and hyperintensity volumes, adjusted for age, sex, years of education, global cognition, vascular risk factors, APOE4 genotype, residual sensorimotor symptoms from previous stroke and brain volume.
There was a significant positive global linear association between DTC and hyperintensity burden (adjusted Wilks’ λ = .87, P = .01). Amongst all WMH volumes, hyperintensity burden from basal ganglia + thalamus provided the most significant contribution to the global association (adjusted β = .008, η2 = .03; P = .04), independently of brain atrophy.
In poststroke, increased DTC may be an indicator of larger white matter damages, specifically in subcortical regions, which can potentially affect the overall cognitive processing and decrease gait automaticity by increasing the cortical control over patients’ locomotion.