Gray matter volume covariance patterns associated with gait speed in older adults: a multi-cohort MRI study

  • Helena M. Blumen
  • Lucy L. Brown
  • Christian Habeck
  • Gilles Allali
  • Emmeline Ayers
  • Olivier Beauchet
  • Michele Callisaya
  • Richard B. Lipton
  • P. S. Mathuranath
  • Thanh G. Phan
  • V. G. Pradeep Kumar
  • Velandai Srikanth
  • Joe Verghese
Original Research


Accelerated gait decline in aging is associated with many adverse outcomes, including an increased risk for falls, cognitive decline, and dementia. Yet, the brain structures associated with gait speed, and how they relate to specific cognitive domains, are not well-understood. We examined structural brain correlates of gait speed, and how they relate to processing speed, executive function, and episodic memory in three non-demented and community-dwelling older adult cohorts (Overall N = 352), using voxel-based morphometry and multivariate covariance-based statistics. In all three cohorts, we identified gray matter volume covariance patterns associated with gait speed that included brain stem, precuneus, fusiform, motor, supplementary motor, and prefrontal (particularly ventrolateral prefrontal) cortex regions. Greater expression of these gray matter volume covariance patterns linked to gait speed were associated with better processing speed in all three cohorts, and with better executive function in one cohort. These gray matter covariance patterns linked to gait speed were not associated with episodic memory in any of the cohorts. These findings suggest that gait speed, processing speed (and to some extent executive functions) rely on shared neural systems that are subject to age-related and dementia-related change. The implications of these findings are discussed within the context of the development of interventions to compensate for age-related gait and cognitive decline.


Gait Cognition Magnetic resonance imaging Gray matter Multivariate analyses 



We would like to thank Melanie Lucas, Syed Sabbir, Susmit Tripathi and Jennifer Yuan for their assistance in manually re-orienting, and ensuring proper segmentation of, neuroimaging data.


No targeted funding is reported for the secondary analyses performed in this study. The individual studies were supported by the following agencies. The Central Control of Mobility in Aging Study was funded by the NIH/NIA (1R01AG044007-01A1 1RO1AG036920 1R56AG057548-01). The Einstein Aging Study was funded by NIH/NIA (AG03949 AG026728). The GAIT Study was funded by the French Ministry of Health (Projet Hospitalier de Recherche Clinique national 2009-A00533-54). Helena M. Blumen was also supported by a career development award from NIH/NIA 1K01AG049829-01A1.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of Interest

All authors declare that he/she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in these studies involving human subjects were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutions, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in each study.

Supplementary material

11682_2018_9871_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 19 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helena M. Blumen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lucy L. Brown
    • 2
  • Christian Habeck
    • 3
  • Gilles Allali
    • 4
  • Emmeline Ayers
    • 1
  • Olivier Beauchet
    • 5
  • Michele Callisaya
    • 6
    • 7
  • Richard B. Lipton
    • 2
  • P. S. Mathuranath
    • 8
  • Thanh G. Phan
    • 6
  • V. G. Pradeep Kumar
    • 9
  • Velandai Srikanth
    • 6
    • 7
  • Joe Verghese
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of MedicineAlbert Einstein College of MedicineBronxUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyAlbert Einstein College of MedicineBronxUSA
  3. 3.Cognitive Neuroscience Division, Department of Neurology and Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s disease and the Aging BrainColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Department of Clinical NeurosciencesGeneva University Hospitals and University of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  5. 5.Joseph Kaufmann Chair in Geriatric Medicine, Faculty of MedicineMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  6. 6.Stroke and Ageing Research Group, Department of Medicine, School of Clinical SciencesMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  7. 7.Menzies Institute for Medical ResearchUniversity of Tasmania (M.L.C.)HobartAustralia
  8. 8.Department of NeurologyNational Institute of Mental Health & NeurosciencesBengaluruIndia
  9. 9.Department of NeurologyBaby Memorial HospitalKozhikodeIndia

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