Original Paper

Brain Topography

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 292-301

First online:

Central Adaptations to Repetitive Grasping in Healthy Aging

  • Michael J. FalvoAffiliated withWar Related Illness and Injury Study Center, Department of Veterans Affairs, VA New Jersey Health Care System Email author 
  • , Erik J. SirevaagAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine
  • , John W. RohrbaughAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine
  • , Gammon M. EarhartAffiliated withProgram in Physical Therapy, Washington University School of MedicineDepartment of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Washington University School of MedicineDepartment of Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine

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Augmented cortical activity during repetitive grasping mitigates repetition-related decrease in cortical efficiency in young adults. It is unclear if similar processes occur with healthy aging. We recorded movement-related cortical potentials (MRCP) during 150 repetitive handgrip contractions at 70% of maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) in healthy young (n = 10) and old (n = 10) adults. Repetitions were grouped into two Blocks (Block 1 and 2: repetitions 1–60 and 91–150, respectively) and analyzed separately to assess the effects of aging and block. EMG of the flexor digitorum superficialis and handgrip force were also recorded. No changes in EMG or MVC were observed across blocks for either group. Significant interactions (P < 0.05) were observed for MRCPs recorded from mesial (FCz, Cz, CPz) and motor (C1, C3, Cz) electrode sites, with younger adults demonstrating significant increases in MRCP amplitude. Focal MRCP activity in response to repetitive grasping resulted in minimal changes (i.e. Block 1 versus Block 2) in older adults. Central adaptive processes change across the lifespan, showing increasingly less focal activation in older adults during repetitive grasping. Our findings are consistent with previous paradigms demonstrating more diffuse cortical activation during motor tasks in older adults.


Movement-related cortical potential Bereitschaftspotential Central adaptation Repetitive voluntary contraction Aging