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Comparison of driving capacity among patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and healthy controls using the lane change task

Published:February 19, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jns.2020.116741

      Highlights

      • Identifying impaired driving capacity in ALS is difficult.
      • No difference in simulated driving task was observed despite mild to moderate functional and cognitive decline.
      • Results do not imply these are “safe” drivers.
      • Cost-effective and reliable clinical assessments, to determine medical fitness to drive in individuals with ALS are needed.

      Abstract

      Objective

      Compare driving capacity of individuals with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and healthy controls (HC) using a driving simulation program.

      Methods

      A prospective study was performed on individuals with ALS who reported they were still driving, and a group of HCs. Demographic data included age and gender. Assessment included cognitive assessments (Montreal cognitive assessment [MoCA] and ALS Cognitive Behavioral Scale [ALS-CBS]); gait speed (m/s); ALS Functional Rating Scale-revised total score (ALSFRS-R); and simulated driving assessment (Lane Change Task [LCT]). The LCT is a simple assessment tool which simulates the visual, cognitive, and motor demands of driving to detect at-risk drivers and uses distractions (secondary tasks) to quantify the performance loss on the primary task (lane changes).

      Results

      Twenty-eight individuals with ALS (22 males, mean age 64 years) and 20 HCs (7 males, mean age 59 years) were studied. Individuals with mild to moderate ALS (ALSFRS-R mean 36.2) were older, had mild cognitive difficulty (MoCA 24 vs 27; ALS-CBS 14.19 [SD 3.85]) and mobility decline (gait speed 1.1 vs 1.4 m/s) compared to HC. Driving assessment using the LCT found no differences in baseline scores or during motor, cognitive, or visually distracting conditions.

      Conclusions

      Individuals with ALS with mild to moderate disease progression, with cognitive and motor weakness still demonstrate similar driving capacity to HCs using a driving simulation task. Driving assessment needs to be expanded longitudinally and perhaps with more robust measures to more precisely identify types of driving challenges that lead to cessation of driving in individuals with ALS.
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