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Stronger People Have Healthier Brains

Summary: A new study reports a strong hand grip is correlated with better visual memory and reaction times in people with psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Source: University of Manchester.

A study of nearly half a million people has revealed that muscular strength, measured by handgrip, is an indication of how healthy our brains are.

Dr. Joseph Firth, an Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Manchester and Research Fellow at NICM Health Research Institute at Western Sydney University, crunched the numbers using UK Biobank data.

Using data from the 475,397 participants from all around the U.K., the new study showed that on average, stronger people performed better across every test of brain functioning used.

Tests included reaction speed, logical problem solving, and multiple tests of memory.

The study shows the relationships were consistently strong in both people aged under 55 and those aged over 55. Previous studies have only shown this applies in elderly people

“When taking multiple factors into account such as age, gender, bodyweight and education, our study confirms that people who are stronger do indeed tend to have better functioning brains,” said Dr. Firth.

The study, published in Schizophrenia Bulletin, also showed that maximal handgrip was strongly correlated with both visual memory and reaction time in over 1000 people with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.

He said: “We can see there is a clear connection between muscular strength and brain health.

“But really, what we need now, are more studies to test if we can actually make our brains healthier by doing things which make our muscles stronger – such as weight training.”

Previous research by group has already found that aerobic exercise can improve brain health.

However, the benefit of weight training on brain health has yet to be fully investigated.

hand gripping

The study shows the relationships were consistently strong in both people aged under 55 and those aged over 55. Previous studies have only shown this applies in elderly people NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

He added: “These sorts of novel interventions, such as weight training, could be particularly beneficial for people with mental health conditions.

“Our research has shown that the connections between muscular strength and brain functioning also exist in people experiencing schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorder – all of which can interfere with regular brain functioning.

“This raises the strong possibility that weight training exercises could actually improve both the physical and mental functioning of people with these conditions.”

Baseline data from the UK Biobank (2007-2010) was analysed; including 475,397 individuals from the general population, and 1,162 individuals with schizophrenia.

About this neuroscience research article

Source: University of Manchester
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Open access research for “Grip Strength Is Associated With Cognitive Performance in Schizophrenia and the General Population: A UK Biobank Study of 476559 Participants” by Joseph Firth, Brendon Stubbs, Davy Vancampfort, Josh A Firth, Matthew Large, Simon Rosenbaum, Mats Hallgren, Philip B Ward, Jerome Sarris, and Alison R Yung in Schizophrenia Bulletin. Published April 19 2018.
doi:10.1093/schbul/sby034

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
University of Manchester “Stronger People Have Healthier Brains.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 19 April 2018.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/stronger-healthy-brains-8836/>.
University of Manchester (2018, April 19). Stronger People Have Healthier Brains. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved April 19, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/stronger-healthy-brains-8836/
University of Manchester “Stronger People Have Healthier Brains.” http://neurosciencenews.com/stronger-healthy-brains-8836/ (accessed April 19, 2018).

Abstract

Grip Strength Is Associated With Cognitive Performance in Schizophrenia and the General Population: A UK Biobank Study of 476559 Participants

Background
Handgrip strength may provide an easily-administered marker of cognitive functional status. However, further population-scale research examining relationships between grip strength and cognitive performance across multiple domains is needed. Additionally, relationships between grip strength and cognitive functioning in people with schizophrenia, who frequently experience cognitive deficits, has yet to be explored.

Methods
Baseline data from the UK Biobank (2007–2010) was analyzed; including 475397 individuals from the general population, and 1162 individuals with schizophrenia. Linear mixed models and generalized linear mixed models were used to assess the relationship between grip strength and 5 cognitive domains (visual memory, reaction time, reasoning, prospective memory, and number memory), controlling for age, gender, bodyweight, education, and geographical region.

Results
In the general population, maximal grip strength was positively and significantly related to visual memory (coefficient [coeff] = −0.1601, standard error [SE] = 0.003), reaction time (coeff = −0.0346, SE = 0.0004), reasoning (coeff = 0.2304, SE = 0.0079), number memory (coeff = 0.1616, SE = 0.0092), and prospective memory (coeff = 0.3486, SE = 0.0092: all P < .001). In the schizophrenia sample, grip strength was strongly related to visual memory (coeff = −0.155, SE = 0.042, P < .001) and reaction time (coeff = −0.049, SE = 0.009, P < .001), while prospective memory approached statistical significance (coeff = 0.233, SE = 0.132, P = .078), and no statistically significant association was found with number memory and reasoning (P > .1).

Conclusions
Grip strength is significantly associated with cognitive functioning in the general population and individuals with schizophrenia, particularly for working memory and processing speed. Future research should establish directionality, examine if grip strength also predicts functional and physical health outcomes in schizophrenia, and determine whether interventions which improve muscular strength impact on cognitive and real-world functioning.

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