Cortical hemodynamics as a function of handgrip strength

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Cortical hemodynamics as a function of handgrip strength and cognitive performance: a cross-sectional fNIRS study in younger adults.

Abstract
BACKGROUND: There is growing evidence for a positive correlation between measures of muscular strength and cognitive abilities. However, the neurophysiological correlates of this relationship are not well understood so far. The aim of this study was to investigate cortical hemodynamics [i.e., changes in concentrations of oxygenated (oxyHb) and deoxygenated hemoglobin (deoxyHb)] as a possible link between measures of muscular strength and cognitive performance.
METHODS: In a cohort of younger adults (n = 39, 18-30 years), we assessed (i) handgrip strength by a handhold dynamometer, (ii) short-term working memory performance by using error rates and reaction times in the Sternberg task, and (iii) cortical hemodynamics of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) via functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).
RESULTS: We observed low to moderate negative correlations (rp =  ~ - 0.38 to - 0.51; p < 0.05) between reaction time and levels of oxyHb in specific parts of the PFC. Furthermore, we noticed low to moderate positive correlations (rp =  ~ 0.34 to 0.45; p < 0.05) between reaction times and levels of deoxyHb in distinct parts of the PFC. Additionally, higher levels of oxyHb (rp (35) = 0.401; p = 0.014) and lower levels of deoxyHb (rp (34) = - 0.338; p = 0.043) in specific parts of the PFC were linked to higher percentage of correct answers. We also found low to moderate correlations (p < 0.05) between measures of handgrip strength and levels of oxyHb (rp =  ~ 0.35; p < 0.05) and levels of deoxyHb (rp =  ~ - 0.25 to - 0.49; p < 0.05) in specific parts of the PFC. However, there was neither a correlation between cognitive performance and handgrip strength nor did cortical hemodynamics in the PFC mediate the relationship between handgrip strength and cognitive performance (p > 0.05).
CONCLUSION: The present study provides evidence for a positive neurobehavioral relationship between cortical hemodynamics and cognitive performance. Our findings further imply that in younger adults higher levels of handgrip strength positively influence cortical hemodynamics although the latter did not necessarily culminate in better cognitive performance. Future research should examine whether the present findings can be generalized to other cohorts (e.g., older adults).

PMID: 33588769 [PubMed – in process]

BMC Neurosci. 2021 Feb 15;22(1):10

Authors: Herold F, Behrendt T, Törpel A, Hamacher D, Müller NG, Schega L

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