Skip to main content
Log in

Efficient control of arm movements in advanced age

  • Research Article
  • Published:
Experimental Brain Research Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

The present study addresses the influence of aging on the ability to regulate mechanical effects arising during arm movements due to the multi-joint structure of the arm. Two mechanical factors were considered, interaction torque (IT) and inertial resistance (IR). Regulation of these two factors can be demanding in terms of the timing and magnitude of the required muscle torque (MT), specifically during fast movements. We hypothesized that aging exacerbates the challenge regarding the regulation of these effects with muscular control due to declines in the motor system. This hypothesis was tested by comparing performance of a cyclic line-drawing task in two age groups, young and older adults. Only two joints, the shoulder and elbow, participated in motion. Four orientations of the lines were used to provide variations in the requirements for regulation of IT and IR. Cyclic frequency was manipulated to emphasize the dependence of the mechanical factors on movement speed. Various characteristics of fingertip motion showed that there were no age-related deteriorations in accuracy of line drawing. However, older adults were systematically slower, particularly in the directions of high IR. A detailed analysis of the magnitude of MT and the contribution of this torque to production of net torque at each joint demonstrated that older adults modified joint control and decreased the demands for MT by skillful exploitation of IT in a way specific for each particular line orientation. The results point to a tendency in older adults to decrease the production of muscle force. Nevertheless, older adults also demonstrated an ability to partially compensate for declines in the force production by developing sophisticated strategies of joint control that exploit the multi-joint mechanical structure of the arm. This ability suggests that the internal representation of inter-segmental dynamics and the capability to use it for movement control does not decay with age. The study emphasizes the importance of analysis of joint motion and control characteristics for the investigation of arm movements and for comparison of these movements between different subject populations.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Amrhein PC, Goggin NL, Stelmach GE (1991) Age differences in the maintenance and restructuring of movement preparation. Psychol Aging 6:451–466

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Appollonio I, Carabellese C, Magni E, Frattaol L, Trabucchi M (1995) Sensory impairments and mortality in an elderly community population: a six-year follow-up study. Age Ageing 24:30–36

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Bashore TR, Ridderinkhof KR, van der Molen MW (1997) The decline of cognitive processing speed in old age. Curr Directions Psychol Sci 6:163–169

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bastian AJ, Martin TA, Keating JG, Thach WT (1996) Cerebellar ataxia: abnormal control of interaction torques across multiple joints. J Neurophysiol 76:492–509

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Beer RF, Dewald JPA, Rymer WZ (2000) Deficits in the coordination of multijoint arm movements in patients with hemiparesis: evidence for disturbed control of limb dynamics. Exp Brain Res 131:305–319

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Bellgrove MA, Phillips JG, Bradshaw JL, Gallucci RM (1998) Response (re-) programming in aging: a kinematic analysis. J Gerontol 53A(3):M222–M227

    Google Scholar 

  • Birren JE (1974) Translations in gerontology—from lab to life. Psychophysiology and speed of response. Am Psychol 29:808–815

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Bock O (2005) Components of sensorimotor adaptation in young and elderly adults. Exp Brain Res 160:259–263

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Brown SH (1996) Control of simple arm movements in the elderly. In: Ferrandez AM, Teasdale N (eds) Changes in sensory motor behavior in aging, vol 114. Elsevier Science BV, North Holland

  • Brown WF, Strong MJ, Snow R (1988) Methods for estimating numbers of motor units in biceps-brachialis muscles and losses of motor units with aging. Muscle Nerve 11:423–432

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Bhushan N, Shadnehr R (1999) Computational nature of human adaptive control during learning of reaching movements in force fields. Biol Cybern 81:39–60

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Campbell MJ, McComas AJ, Petito F (1973) Physiological changes in ageing muscles. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 36:174–182

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Chaffin DB, Andersson GBJ (1984) Occupational biomechanics. Wile, New York, pp 64–65

    Google Scholar 

  • Cole KJ, Rotella DL, Harper JG (1998) Tactile impairments cannot explain the effect of age on a grasp and lift task. Exp Brain Res 121:263–269

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Cooke JD, Virji-Babuk N (1995) Reprogramming of muscle activation patterns at the wrist in compensation for elbow reaction torques during planar two-joint arm movements. Exp Brain Res 106:169–176

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cooke JD, Brown SH, Cunningham DA (1989) Kinematics of arm movements in elderly humans. Neurobiol Aging 10:159–165

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Doherty TJ, Vandervoort AA, Brown WF (1993) Effects of ageing on the motor unit: a brief review. Can J Appl Physiol 18:331–358

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Dounskaia N (2005) The internal model and the leading joint hypothesis: implications for control of multi-joint movements. Exp Brain Res 166:1–16

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Dounskaia N, Swinnen SP, Walter CB, Spaepen AJ, Verschueren SMP (1998) Hierarchical control of different elbow-wrist coordination patterns. Exp Brain Res 121:239–254

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Dounskaia N, Swinnen SP, Walter CB (2000) A principle of control of rapid multijoint movements: the leading joint hypothesis. In: Winter JM, Crago PE (eds) Biomechanics and neural control of posture and movement. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 390–403

    Google Scholar 

  • Dounskaia N, Ketcham CJ, Stelmach GE (2002a) Influence of biomechanical constraints on horizontal arm movements. Motor Control 6:366–387

    Google Scholar 

  • Dounskaia N, Ketcham CJ, Stelmach GE (2002b) Commonalities and differences in control of various drawing movements. Exp Brain Res 146:11–25

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Dounskaia N, Ketcham CJ, Leis BC, Stelmach GE (2005a) Disruption in joint control during drawing arm movements in Parkindon’s disease. Exp Brain Res 164:311–322

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dounskaia N, Wisleder D, Johnson TA (2005b) Influence of biomechanical factors on substructure of pointing movements. Exp Brain Res 164:505–516

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Erim Z, Beg MF, Burke DT, De Luca CJ (1999) Effects of aging on motor-unit control properties. J Neurophysiol 82:2081–2091

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Fernandez-Ruiz J, Hall C, Vergara P, Diaz R (2000) Prism adaptation in normal aging: slower adaptation rate and larger aftereffect. Cogn Brain Res 9:23–226

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Flanagan JR, Lolley S (2001) The inertial anisotropy of the arm is accurately predicted during movement planning. J Neurosci 21:1361–1369

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Frontera WR, Hughes VA, Lutz KJ, Evans WJ (1991) A cross-sectional study of muscle strength and mass in 45- to 78 year old men and women. J Appl Physiol 71:644–650

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Gallagher MA, Cuomo F, Polonsky L, Berliner K, Zuckerman JD (1997) Effects of age, testing speed, and arm dominance on isokinetic strength of the elbow. J Shoulder Elbow Surg 6:340–346

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Galloway JC, Hoshland GF (2002) General coordination of shoulder, elbow and wrist dynamics during multijoint arm movements. Exp Brain Res 142:163–180

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ghez C, Sainburg R (1995) Proprioceptive control of interjoint coordination. Can J Physiol Pharmacol 75:273–284

    Google Scholar 

  • Goggin NL, Stelmach GE (1990) Age-related differences in a kinematic analysis of precued movements. Can J Aging 9:371–385

    Google Scholar 

  • Goggin NL, Meeuwsen HJ (1992) Age-related differences in the control of spatial aiming movements. Res Q Exerc Sport 63:356–372

    Google Scholar 

  • Gordon J, Ghilardi MF, Cooper SE, Ghez C (1994) Accuracy of planar reaching movements: II. Systematic extent errors resulting from inertial anisotropy. Exp Brain Res 99:112–130

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Graves AE, Kornatz KW, Enoka RM (2000) Older adults use a unique strategy to lift inertial loads with the elbow flexor muscles. J Neurophysiol 83:2030–2039

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Gribble PL, Ostry DJ (1999) Compensation for interaction torques during single- and multijoint movement. J Neurophysiol 82:2310–2326

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hogan N (1985) The mechanics of multi-joint posture and movement control. Biol Cybern 52:315–331

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hirashima M, Kudo K, Ohtsuki T (2003) Utilization and compensation of interaction torques during ball-throwing movements. J Neurophysiol 89:1784–1796

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hollerbach JM, Flash T. (1982) Dynamic interactions between limb segments during planar arm movement. Biol Cybern 44:67–77

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hoy MG, Zernicke RF (1986) The role of intersegmental dynamics during rapid limb oscillations. J Biomech 19:867–877

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ketcham CJ, Dounskaia N, Stelmach GE (2004) Age-related differences in the control of multijoint movements. Motor Control 8:422–36

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Klein CS, RiceCL, Marsh GD (2001) Normalized force, activation, and coactivation in the arm muscles of young and old men. J Appl Physiol 91:1341–1349

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Koshland GF, Galloway JC, Nevoret-Bell CJ (2000) Control of the wrist in three-joint arm movements to multiple directions in the horizontal plane. J Neurophysiol 83:3188–3195

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Latash ML, Aruin AS, Shapiro MB (1995) Feedforward postural adjustments in a simple two-joint synergy in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 97:77–89

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Levin O, Ouamer M, Steyvers M, Swinnen SP (2001) Directional tuning effects during cyclical two-joint arm movements in the horizontal plane. Exp Brain Res 141:471–484

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lexell J (1998) What is the cause of the ageing atrophy? Assessment of the fiber type composition in whole human muscles. In: Stelmach GE Homberg V (eds) Sensorimotor impairment in the elderly. Elsevier, North Holland, pp 143–153

    Google Scholar 

  • Mardia KY (1972) Statistics of directional data. Academic, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Metter EJ, Conwit R, Tobin R, Fozard (1997) Age-associated loss of power and strength in the upper extremities in women and men. J Gerontol 52:B267–B276

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Mortimer JA, Pirozzolo FJ, Maletta GJ (1982) The aging motor system. Praeger Publishers, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Pfann KD, Corcos DM, Moore CG, Hasan Z (2002) Circle-drawing movements at different speeds: role of inertial anisotropy. J Neurophysiol 88:2399–2407

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Pohl SP, Winstein CJ, Fisher BE (1996) The locus of age-related movement slowing: sensory processing in continuous goal-directed aiming. J Gerontol 51B:94–102

    Google Scholar 

  • Porter MM, Myint A, Kramer JF, Vandervoort AA (1995) Concentric and eccentric knee extension strength in older and younger men and women. Can J Appl Physiol 20:429–439

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Pratt J, Chasteen AL, Abrams RA (1994) Rapid aimed limb movements: age differences and practice effects in component submovements. Psychol Aging 9:325–334

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Putnam CA (1993) Sequential motions of body segments in striking and throwing skills: descriptions and explanations. J Biomech 26:125–135

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Roos MR, Rice CL, Vandervoort AA (1997) Age-related changes in motor unit function. Muscle Nerve 20:679–690

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Sabes PN, Jordan MI, Wolpert DM (1998) The role of inertial sensitivity in motor planning. J Neurosci 18:5948–5957

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Sainburg RL, Poizner H, Ghez C (1993) Loss of proprioception produces deficits in interjoint coordination. J Neurophysiol 70:2136–2147

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Sainburg RL, Ghilardi MF, Poizner H, Ghez C (1995) Control of limb dynamics in normal subjects and patients without proprioception. J Neurophysiol 73: 820–835

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Sainburg RL, Ghez C, Kalakanis D (1999) Intersegmental dynamics are controlled by sequential anticipatory, error correction, and postural mechanisms. J Neurophysiol 81:1045–1056

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Salthouse TA (1985) A theory of cognitive aging. North Holland, Amsterdam

    Google Scholar 

  • Schmidt RC, Treffnet PJ, Shaw BK, Turvey MT (1992) Dynamical aspects of learning an interlimb rhythmic movement pattern. J Mot Behav 24:67–84

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Schultz AB (1992) Mobility impairment in the elderly: challenges for biomechanics research. J Biomech 25:519–528

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Seidler-Dobrin RD, He J, Stelmach GE (1998) Coactivation to reduce variability in elderly. Motor Control 2:314–330

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Seidler-Dobrin RD, Alberts JL, Stelmach GE (2002) Changes in multi-joint control patterns with age. Motor Control 6:19–31

    Google Scholar 

  • Stelmach GE, Sirica A (1986) Aging and proprioception. Age 9:99–103

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stelmach GE, Goggin NL, Garcia-Colera A (1987) Movement specification time with age. Exp Brain Res 13:39–46

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Strayer DL, Wickens CD, Braune R (1987) Adult age differences in the speed and capacity of information processing: 2. an electrophysiological approach. Psychol Aging 2:99–110

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Uylings HBM, de Brabander JM (2002) Neuronal changes in normal human aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Brain Cogn 49:268–276

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Vesia M, Vander H, Yan X, Sergio LE (2005) The time course for kinetic versus kinematic planning of goal-directed human motor behavior. Exp Brain Res 160:290–301

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Walker N, Philbin DA, Fisk AD (1997) Age-related differences in movement control: adjusting submovement structure to optimize performance. J Gerontol Psychol Sci 52B:P40–P52

    Google Scholar 

  • Welford AT (1984) Between bodily changes and performance: some possible reasons for slowing with age. Exp Aging Res 10:73–88

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wickens CD, Braune R, Stokes A (1987) Adult age differences in the speed and capacity of information processing: 1. a dual-task approach. Psychol Aging 2:70–78

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wisleder D, Dounskaia N (2006) The role of different submovement types during pointing to a target. Exp Brain Res (in press)

Download references

Acknowledgements

We acknowledge Dr. George Stelmach for providing equipment and lab space to facilitate this research. This study was supported by grant AG 021705 from the National Institute of Aging and by grants NS 39352 and NS 43502 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Gyusung Lee is now with the Department of Surgery, University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD 21201. Caroline Ketcham is now with Department of Health and Kinesiology, Texas A & M University, College Station, TX 77840–4243.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Natalia Dounskaia.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Lee, G., Fradet, L., Ketcham, C.J. et al. Efficient control of arm movements in advanced age. Exp Brain Res 177, 78–94 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-006-0648-7

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-006-0648-7

Keywords

Navigation