Factors underlying age-related changes in discrete aiming
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Age has a clear impact on one’s ability to make accurate goal-directed aiming movements. Older adults seem to plan slower and shorter-ranged initial pulses towards the target, and rely more on sensory feedback to ensure endpoint accuracy. Despite the fact that these age-related changes in manual aiming have been observed consistently, the underlying mechanism remains speculative. In an attempt to isolate four commonly suggested underlying factors, young and older adults were instructed to make discrete aiming movements under varying speed and accuracy constraints. Results showed that older adults were physically able to produce fast primary submovements and that they demonstrated similar movement-programming capacities as young adults. On the other hand, considerable evidence was found supporting a decreased visual feedback-processing efficiency and the implementation of a play-it-safe strategy in older age. In conclusion, a combination of the latter two factors seems to underlie the age-related changes in manual aiming behaviour.
KeywordsManual aiming Motor control Ageing Kinematics
Werner F. Helsen and Florian Van Halewyck would like to acknowledge the KU Leuven Research Council for financially supporting this research project. Matthieu P. Boisgontier is supported by a research Grant (1504015N) and a post-doctoral fellowship of the Research Foundation—Flanders (FWO). The authors also wish to thank Ig. Marc Beirinckx and Ig. Paul Meugens for providing invaluable guidance in designing the research equipment.
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