Tongue strength and dementia

Tongue strength as a measure of health and wellbeing for people with dementia

Degree type


Closing date

29 October 2021



Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore

About the research project

Tongue strength and movement are critical for efficient chewing, swallowing, and speech production – and thus for assisting people with dementia to be well-nourished, able to communicate and engage socially, and maintain their health and wellbeing. Decreased tongue strength has been associated with both ageing and sarcopenia, a condition of progressive and generalised loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength. In recent years, sarcopenia has been recognised as a serious problem for older adults. This is particularly noteworthy for older adults with dementia.

Tongue strength is easily measured using the Iowa Oral Performance Instrument (IOPI) and computer-based tongue strengthening exercises are effective. Measuring tongue strength and implementing tongue strengthening exercises, when needed, can be a valuable strategy in maintaining the health and wellbeing of people with dementia.

The IOPI is a portable, hand-held device that records the pressure exerted by the tongue in kilopascals (kPa). A disposable bulb is placed in the mouth, behind the upper incisors. The adult is asked to push the bulb against the hard palate using the tongue as strongly as possible for 3 seconds. Three measures are taken. A 1-minute rest is given between each measure. The highest measured value is documented. There are normative data for healthy older adults.

Documenting the tongue strength of adults referred to the ISLAND Clinic will provide valuable data regarding any risk to nutritional health, swallowing safety, and speech production. Such data will be compared to measures of nutritional status (the Mini-Nutritional Assessment), ability to swallow 90 cc water without difficulty (the Yale swallow protocol), and a quality-of-life scale. Completion of these four measures will take no longer than 30 minutes. These data will complement protocols already in place, including gait and physical function, and enable evidence-based intervention to maintain the health and wellbeing of people with dementia.

Primary Supervisor

Meet A/Prof Lyn Goldberg


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from international applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, A/Prof Lyn Goldberg, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including contact details of two referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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