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Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 216, Issue 2, pp 287–297 | Cite as

Touch perception throughout working life: effects of age and expertise

  • Eva-Maria Reuter
  • Claudia Voelcker-Rehage
  • Solveig Vieluf
  • Ben GoddeEmail author
Research Article

Abstract

Fine motor skills including precise tactile and haptic perception are essential to the manipulation of objects. With increasing age, one’s perception decreases; however, little is known about the state of touch perception in middle-aged adults. This study investigated the extent to which the decline in touch perception affects adults throughout their working life. In addition, the influence of work-related expertise on tactile and haptic perception was examined in an attempt to determine whether expertise, in the form of the frequent use of the fingers, affects perception and counters age-related losses. The study was conducted with subjects from three age groups (18–25, 34–46, and 54–65 years) with two levels of expertise. Expertise was classified by the subjects’ occupations. Five sensory tasks of touch perception were conducted. The results confirmed age-related changes in tactile perception over the span of one’s working life. Older workers were proven to have lower tactile performance than younger adults. However, middle-aged workers were hardly affected by the perception losses and did not differ significantly from younger adults. Work-related expertise was not proven to either affect tactile and haptic perception or counteract age-related declines. We conclude that the age-related decline gets steeper in the late working life and that specific work-related expertise does not lead to generally improved touch perception that would result in lower thresholds and improved performance in non-expertise specific tasks.

Keywords

Tactile perception Haptics Aging Expertise 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The research was supported by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft, DFG, VO 1432/7-1) as a part of the DFG priority program Age-differentiated work systems (SPP 1184).

Supplementary material

221_2011_2931_MOESM1_ESM.doc (199 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 199 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eva-Maria Reuter
    • 1
  • Claudia Voelcker-Rehage
    • 1
  • Solveig Vieluf
    • 1
  • Ben Godde
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Jacobs Center on Lifelong Learning and Institutional DevelopmentJacobs University BremenBremenGermany

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