Are age-related increases in force variability due to decrements in strength?
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The purpose of this investigation was to examine the relationship between strength and the magnitude and time sequential structure of force variability. Young and old adults produced isometric force via index finger abduction to a visually presented target corresponding to a constant force level of 5 or 25% maximal voluntary contraction (MVC). Cluster analysis was used to divide subjects into groups based on age and strength. The variability of older adults was greater and showed more time dependent structure than their younger counterparts. The force output of weaker subjects was also more variable and had a stronger sequential structure. Indeed, when MVC was controlled for there was no significant age effect on force variability. The relationship between strength and variability remained significant, however, when chronological age was controlled for. The findings revealed that the established age-related changes in force variability are more fundamentally due to the association between strength and force variability and provide a further challenge to using chronological age as a marker of the biological aging process in studies of motor control.