Aging, visual information, and adaptation to task asymmetry in bimanual force coordination

Xiaogang Hu*, Karl M. Newell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


This study investigated the coordination and control strategies that the elderly adopt during a redundant finger force coordination task and how the amount of visual information regulates the coordination patterns. Three age groups (20 -24, 65-69, and 75-79 yr) performed a bimanual asymmetric force task. Task asymmetry was manipulated via imposing different coefficients on the finger forces such that the weighted sum of the two index finger forces equaled the total force. The amount of visual information was manipulated by changing the visual information gain of the total force output. Two hypotheses were tested: the reduced adaptability hypothesis predicts that the elderly show less degree of force asymmetry between hands compared with young adults in the asymmetric coefficient conditions, whereas the compensatory hypothesis predicts that the elderly exhibit more asymmetric force coordination patterns with asymmetric coefficients. Under the compensatory hypothesis, two contrasting directions of force sharing strategies (i.e., more efficient coordination strategy and minimum variance strategy) are expected. A deteriorated task performance (high performance error and force variability) was found in the two elderly groups, but enhanced visual information improved the task performance in all age groups. With low visual information gain, the elderly showed reduced adaptability (i.e., less asymmetric forces between hands) to the unequal weighting coefficients, which supported the reduced adaptability hypothesis; however, the elderly revealed the same degree of adaptation as the young group under high visual gain. The findings are consistent with the notion that the age-related reorganization of force coordination and control patterns is mediated by visual information and, more generally, the interactive influence of multiple categories of constraints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1671-1680
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Bimanual coupling
  • Isometric force
  • Visual gain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology


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