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Ann Clin Transl Neurol. 2019 Oct;6(10):2026-2036. doi: 10.1002/acn3.50891. Epub 2019 Sep 16.

Minor gait impairment despite white matter damage in pure small vessel disease.

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Institute for Stroke and Dementia Research, University Hospital, LMU Munich, Munich, Germany.
German Center for Vertigo and Balance Disorders DSGZ, Department of Neurology, University Hospital, LMU Munich, Munich, Germany.
Department of Neurology, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria.
Munich Cluster for Systems Neurology (SyNergy), Munich, Germany.



Gait impairment is common in patients with cerebral small vessel disease (SVD). However, gait studies in elderly SVD patients might be confounded by age-related comorbidities, such as polyneuropathy or sarcopenia. We therefore studied young patients with the genetically defined SVD CADASIL. Our aim was to examine the effects of pure SVD on single and dual task gait, and to investigate associations of gait performance with cognitive deficits and white matter alterations.


We investigated single task walking and calculatory, semantic, or motoric dual task costs in 39 CADASIL patients (mean age 50 ± 8) using a computerized walkway. We obtained 3.0T MRI and neuropsychological data on processing speed, the main cognitive deficit in CADASIL. Spatiotemporal gait parameters were standardized based on data from 192 healthy controls. Associations between white matter integrity, assessed by diffusion tensor imaging, and gait were analyzed using both a global marker and voxel-wise analysis.


Compared to controls, CADASIL patients showed only mild single task gait impairment, and only in the rhythm domain. The semantic dual task additionally uncovered mild deficits in the pace domain. Processing speed was not associated with gait. White matter alterations were related to single task stride length but not to dual task performance.


Despite severe disease burden, gait performance in patients with pure small vessel disease was relatively preserved in single and dual tasks. Results suggest that age-related pathologies other than small vessel disease might play a role for gait impairment in elderly SVD patients.

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