The purpose of the current study was to develop an objective tool based on dual-task performance for screening early-stage Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI of the Alzheimer’s type). Dual-task involved a simultaneous execution of a sensor-based upper-extremity function (UEF) motor task (normal or rapid speed) and a cognitive task of counting numbers backward (by ones or threes). Motor function speed and variability were recorded and compared between cognitive groups using ANOVAs, adjusted for age, gender, and body mass index. Cognitive indexes were developed using multivariable ordinal logistic models to predict the cognitive status using UEF parameters. Ninety-one participants were recruited; 35 cognitive normal (CN, age = 83.8 ± 6.9), 34 MCI (age = 83.9 ± 6.6), and 22 AD (age = 84.1 ± 6.1). Flexion number and sensor-based motion variability parameters, within the normal pace elbow flexion, showed significant between-group differences (maximum effect size of 1.10 for CN versus MCI and 1.39 for CN versus AD, p < 0.0001). Using these parameters, the cognitive status (both MCI and AD) was predicted with a receiver operating characteristic area under curve of 0.83 (sensitivity = 0.82 and specificity = 0.72). Findings suggest that measures of motor function speed and accuracy within a more practical upper-extremity test (instead of walking) may provide enough complexity for cognitive impairment assessment.
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