A Narrative Review of Handgrip Strength and Cognitive Functioning: Bringing a New Characteristic to Muscle Memory

Keith A. Shaughnessy, Kyle J. Hackney, Brian C. Clark, William J. Kraemer, Donna J. Terbizan, Ryan R. Bailey, Ryan McGrath

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background: Measures of handgrip strength have not only emerged as a clinically viable screening tool for determining risk for morbidity, functional disability, and early mortality, but also for helping to identify cognitive deficits. However, the phenomena that links low handgrip strength with cognitive decline remains unclear. The role of the muscular and neural systems, and their adaptations to muscle strengthening activities over the life course, may provide important information for how age-related changes to muscle mass, strength, and neural capacity influence cognition. Moreover, disentangling how handgrip strength and cognitive function are associated may help to inform healthcare providers working with aging adults and guide targeted interventions aiming to preserve muscle and cognitive functioning. Objective: To 1) highlight and summarize evidence examining the associations of handgrip strength and cognitive functioning, and 2) provide directions for future research in this area. Methods: Articles from the PubMed database were searched from November 2018-May 2019. The search term algorithm, inclusion and exclusion criteria were pre-specified by investigators. Results: Several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have revealed that measures of handgrip strength were associated with cognitive declines regardless of age demographics and the presence of comorbidities. Conclusion: Handgrip strength can be used in clinical and epidemiological settings for helping to determine the onset and progression of cognitive impairment. Future research should continue to examine how handgrip strength and cognitive function are linked.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1265-1278
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020


  • Aging
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • cognition
  • dementia
  • muscle weakness
  • sarcopenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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