Anticipatory and Reactive Grip Force Control in Patients with Alzheimer's Disease: A Pilot Study

J Alzheimers Dis. 2021;82(4):1651-1665. doi: 10.3233/JAD-210387.


Background: Alzheimer's disease (AD) affects several cognitive functions and causes altered motor function. Fine motor deficits during object manipulation are evident in other neurological conditions, but have not been assessed in dementia patients yet.

Objective: Investigate reactive and anticipatory grip force control in response to unexpected and expected load force perturbation in AD.

Methods: Reactive and anticipatory grip force was investigated using a grip-device with force sensors. In this pilot study, fifteen AD patients and fourteen healthy controls performed a catching task. They held the device with one hand while a sandbag was dropped into an attached receptacle either by the experimenter or by the participant.

Results: In contrast to studies of other neurological conditions, the majority of AD patients exerted lower static grip force levels than controls. Interestingly, patients who were slow in the Luria's three-step test produced normal grip forces. The timing and magnitude of reactive grip force control were largely preserved in patients. In contrast, timing and extent of anticipatory grip forces were impaired in patients, although anticipatory control was generally preserved. These deficits were correlated with decreasing Mini-Mental State Examination scores. Apraxia scores, assessed by pantomime of tool-use, did not correlate with performance in the catching task.

Conclusion: We interpreted the decreased grip force in AD in the context of loss of strength and lethargy, typical for patients with AD. The lower static grip force during object manipulation may emerge as a potential biomarker for early stages of AD, but more studies with larger sample sizes are necessary.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; dementia; early diagnosis; fine motor control; hand strength.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Apraxias / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Status and Dementia Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*