AGE
, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 1339-1355
Date: 26 May 2012

Ageing of internal models: from a continuous to an intermittent proprioceptive control of movement

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Abstract

To control the sensory–motor system, internal models mimic the transformations between motor commands and sensory signals. The present study proposed to assess the effects of physiological adult ageing on the proprioceptive control of movement and the related internal models. To this aim, one group of young adults and one group of older adults performed an ankle contralateral concurrent matching task in two speed conditions (self-selected and fast). Error, temporal and kinematic variables were used to assess the matching performance. The results demonstrated that older adults used a different mode of control as compared to the young adults and suggested that the internal models of proprioceptive control were altered with ageing. Behavioural expressions of these alterations were dependent upon the considered condition of speed. In the self-selected speed condition, this alteration was expressed through an increased number of corrective sub-movements in older adults as compared to their young peers. This strategy enabled them to reach a level of end-point performance comparable to the young adults' performance. In the fast speed condition, older adults were no more able to compensate for their impaired internal models through additional corrective sub-movements and therefore decreased their proprioceptive control performance. These results provided the basis for a model of proprioceptive control of movement integrating the internal models theory and the continuous and intermittent modes of control. This study also suggested that motor control was affected by the frailty syndrome, i.e. a decreased resistance to stressors, which characterises older adults.