Motor errors lead to enhanced performance in older adults

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Young individuals make larger and faster forearm movements when visual feedback about the movement is not available, compared to when it is. We set out to test whether this behavior persists with aging. We tested 40 participants, 20 in each age group-young and old, on a task that required making rhythmic movements of the forearm with and without visual feedback. Surprisingly, we found that older adults increased the speed and the amplitude of their movements to an even greater extent than did the young adults. Furthermore, we found that the increase in speed and amplitude during the non-vision trial segments improved their performance on the task, and they were able to leverage the change in these movement parameters (speed and amplitude) to improve their performance during subsequent trial segments that did include visual feedback. The improvement in accuracy on the task was accompanied by a decrease in path variability. The results indicate that older adults can adapt their movement parameters to enhance performance following a motor perturbation. They further suggest that motor variability in old age can be advantageous under certain circumstances.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3270
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017


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