New assessment offers improved screening for risks, decline in MS patients

June 27, 2024
A new study focused on developing a methodology — called the backward walking speed reserve — to measure the increased walking speed capacity of individuals on demand in the backward direction. This assessment may improve clinical screening for mobility impairments, fall risk, and cognitive decline in individuals with multiple sclerosis.

The Wayne State University researchers said the backward walking speed reserve is linked to disease severity. Individuals more affected by MS had a reduced ability to modulate their backward walking speed. This measure also correlated with other common clinical mobility assessments. A reduced ability to increase backward speed on demand was linked to lower cognitive functioning, including decreased information processing speed and attention, suggesting its potential use in screening for cognitive decline, which is also prevalent in MS.

The research team focused on better understanding mobility and cognitive decline in MS by examining the neural and cognitive underpinnings of mobility impairments. They hope to develop sensitive clinical measures, such as the backward walking speed reserve, to advance understanding and treatment.

The study’s authors said that one of the unique aspects of this paper was that it provided new insights in finding more sensitive outcomes and measures for screening function mobility in people with MS. They came up with a new assessment during backwards walking, reflecting speed modulation. 

The hope is this could be a sensitive metric to measure how people can handle their mobility options and detect those who are at risk of falls and mobility impairments. The researchers said investigating markers of fall risk and cognitive decline that can be easily implemented into clinical practice are key for detecting and preventing falls before they happen.

The study was published in the journal, Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.

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