Sensory and motor peripheral nerve function and longitudinal changes in quadriceps strength

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2015 Apr;70(4):464-70. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glu183. Epub 2014 Oct 15.


Background: Poor peripheral nerve function is common in older adults and may be a risk factor for strength decline, although this has not been assessed longitudinally.

Methods: We assessed whether sensorimotor peripheral nerve function predicts strength longitudinally in 1,830 participants (age = 76.3 ± 2.8, body mass index = 27.2 ± 4.6kg/m(2), strength = 96.3 ± 34.7 Nm, 51.0% female, 34.8% black) from the Health ABC study. Isokinetic quadriceps strength was measured semiannually over 6 years. Peroneal motor nerve conduction amplitude and velocity were recorded. Sensory nerve function was assessed with 10-g and 1.4-g monofilaments and average vibration detection threshold at the toe. Lower-extremity neuropathy symptoms were self-reported.

Results: Worse vibration detection threshold predicted 2.4% lower strength in men and worse motor amplitude and two symptoms predicted 2.5% and 8.1% lower strength, respectively, in women. Initial 10-g monofilament insensitivity predicted 14.2% lower strength and faster strength decline in women and 6.6% lower strength in men (all p < .05).

Conclusion: Poor nerve function predicted lower strength and faster strength decline. Future work should examine interventions aimed at preventing declines in strength in older adults with impaired nerve function.

Keywords: Aging; Motor neurons.; Muscle weakness; Peripheral nerve function; Sensory function; Strength.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength*
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Peripheral Nerves / physiopathology*
  • Peroneal Nerve / physiopathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quadriceps Muscle / innervation
  • Quadriceps Muscle / physiopathology*
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Vibration