Interference of action perception on action production increases across the adult life span
Action perception and action production are assumed to be based on an internal simulation process that involves the sensorimotor system. This system undergoes changes across the life span and is assumed to become less precise with age. In the current study, we investigated how increasing age affects the magnitude of interference in action production during simultaneous action perception. In a task adapted from Brass et al. (Brain Cogn 44(2):124–143, 2000), we asked participants (aged 20–80 years) to respond to a visually presented finger movement and/or symbolic cue by executing a previously defined finger movement. Action production was assessed via participants’ reaction times. Results show that participants were slower in trials in which they were asked to ignore an incongruent finger movement compared to trials in which they had to ignore an incongruent symbolic cue. Moreover, advancing age was shown to accentuate this effect. We suggest that the internal simulation of the action becomes less precise with age making the sensorimotor system more susceptible to perturbations such as the interference of a concurrent action perception.
KeywordsAction simulation Sensorimotor system Motor performance Ageing Imitation inhibition
During the work on her dissertation, Stephanie Wermelinger was a pre-doctoral fellow of the International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course (LIFE, http://www.imprs-life.mpg.de; participating institutions: Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, University of Zurich). The authors want to thank Vanessa Meili for help with data collection.
Compliance with ethical standards
All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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