An experiment was performed which examined the proprioception accuracy of young (20–25 yrs) and elderly (70–80 yrs) subjects on an upper extremity matching task. The subjects performed the task under conditions which required them to primarily rely on proprioception input (constrained movements) or allowed them the additional use of a goal-directed motor outflow (preselected movements) to assist in their matching. Of main interest was whether preselected movements would exhibit the same error patterns as constrained movements in the elderly as some decrease in proprioception was expected.
The experiment found that with constrained movements limb matching accuracy deteriorated substantially in the elderly. In contrast, with the preselected movements, where in addition to proprioception, the use of a goal-directed motor outflow was available to aid in the matching, no deterioration in accuracy was found between age groups. The results are interpreted as evidence that when a goal-directed “corollary discharge” is available which can preset the motor system for anticipatory sensory information, no age changes in proprioception acuity are observed.
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