Sarcopenia and Neuroscience: Learning to Communicate

Brian C Clark, Richard G Carson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the 1990s and early 2000s, the common definition for sarcopenia was age-related loss of skeletal muscle, and low levels of muscle mass were central to sarcopenia diagnosis. In more recent consensus definitions, however, low muscle strength displaces low muscle mass as a defining feature of sarcopenia. The change stems from growing evidence that muscle weakness is a better predictor of adverse health outcomes (e.g., mobility limitations) than muscle mass. This evidence accompanies an emerging recognition that central neural mechanisms are critical determinants of age-related changes in strength and mobility that can occur independently of variations in muscle mass. However, strikingly little practical attention is typically given to the potential role of the central nervous system in the aetiology or remediation of sarcopenia (i.e., low muscle function). In this article, we provide an overview of some mechanisms that mediate neural regulation of muscle contraction and control, and highlight the specific contributions of neural hypoexcitability, dopaminergic dysfunction, and degradation of functional and structural brain connectivity in relation to sarcopenia. We aim to enhance the lines of communication between the domains of sarcopenia and neuroscience. We believe that appreciation of the neural regulation of muscle contraction and control is fundamental to understanding sarcopenia and to developing targeted therapeutic strategies for its treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date07 Apr 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 07 Apr 2021


  • Dynapenia
  • ageing
  • physical function
  • strength
  • weakness


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