Processing of visual information compromises the ability of older adults to control novel fine motor tasks

Harsimran S. Baweja, MinHyuk H. Kwon, Tanya Onushko, David L. Wright, Daniel M. Corcos, Evangelos A. Christou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


We performed two experiments to determine whether amplified motor output variability and compromised processing of visual information in older adults impair short-term adaptations when learning novel fine motor tasks. In Experiment 1, 12 young and 12 older adults underwent training to learn how to accurately trace a sinusoidal position target with abduction–adduction of their index finger. They performed 48 trials, which included 8 blocks of 6 trials (the last trial of each block was performed without visual feedback). Afterward, subjects received an interference task (watched a movie) for 60 min. We tested retention by asking subjects to perform the sinusoidal task (5 trials) with and without visual feedback. In Experiment 2, 12 young and 10 older adults traced the same sinusoidal position target with their index finger and ankle at three distinct visual angles (0.25°, 1° and 5.4°). In Experiment 1, the movement error and variability were greater for older adults during the visual feedback trials when compared with young adults. In contrast, during the no-vision trials, age-associated differences in movement error and variability were ameliorated. Short-term adaptations in learning the sinusoidal task were similar for young and older adults. In Experiment 2, lower amount of visual feedback minimized the age-associated differences in movement variability for both the index finger and ankle movements. We demonstrate that although short-term adaptations are similar for young and older adults, older adults do not process visual information as well as young adults and that compromises their ability to control novel fine motor tasks during acquisition, which could influence long-term retention and transfer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3475-3488
Number of pages14
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Aging
  • Visual feedback
  • Visuomotor processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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