Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 237, Issue 1, pp 223–236 | Cite as

Age differences in arm–trunk coordination during trunk-assisted reaching

  • Sajida Khanafer
  • Heidi Sveistrup
  • Mindy F. Levin
  • Erin K. CressmanEmail author
Research Article


Reaching for an object is a basic motor skill that requires precise coordination between elbow, shoulder and trunk motion. The purpose of this research study was to examine age-related differences in compensatory arm–trunk coordination during trunk-assisted reaching. To engage the arm and trunk, an older and younger group of participants were asked to (1) maintain a fixed hand position while flexing forward at the trunk [stationary hand task (SHT)] and (2) reach to a within-arm’s reach target while simultaneously flexing forward at the trunk [reaching hand task (RHT)] (Raptis et al. in J Neurophysiol 97:4069–4078, 2007; Sibindi et al. in J Vestib Res 23:237–247, 2013). Both tasks were completed with eyes closed. Participants completed the two tasks with their dominant and non-dominant arms, and at both a fast and a preferred speed. On average, young and older participants performed in a similar manner in the SHT, such that they maintained their hand position by compensating for trunk movement with modifications of the elbow and shoulder joints. In the RHT, young and older participants had similar endpoint accuracy. This similarity in performance between young and older participants in the SHT and RHT tasks was observed regardless of the arm used or movement speed. However, for both tasks, movements in older adults were significantly more variable compared to younger adults as shown by the larger variability in arm–trunk coordination performance (gain scores) in the SHT and higher movement time variability in the RHT. Thus, results imply that older adults maintain their ability to coordinate arm and trunk movements efficiently during reaching actions but are not as consistent as younger adults.


Older adults Trunk-assisted reaching Arm–trunk coordination Variable performance 



(MFL and HS) Heart and Stroke Foundation Center for Stroke Recovery (HSFCSR PT-59562) Catalyst Grant. Elucidating the underlying mechanisms of disordered upper limb function in stroke: the relationship between deficits in trunk control and upper limb coordination. April 1, 2013-March 31, 2015. Thanks are extended to S.K. Subramanian for help with the experimental set-up and to all the participants in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sajida Khanafer
    • 1
  • Heidi Sveistrup
    • 2
  • Mindy F. Levin
    • 3
  • Erin K. Cressman
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Human KineticsUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.School of Rehabilitation SciencesUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  3. 3.School of Physical and Occupational TherapyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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