Age-related differences in motor coordination during simultaneous leg flexion and finger extension: influence of temporal pressure.

Article English OPEN
Tarek Hussein ; Eric Yiou ; Jacques Larue
  • Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)
  • Journal: PLoS ONE, volume 8, issue 12 (issn: 1932-6203, eissn: 1932-6203)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083064, pmc: PMC3858341
  • Subject: Q | R | Research Article | Science | Medicine

Although the effect of temporal pressure on spatio-temporal aspects of motor coordination and posture is well established in young adults, there is a clear lack of data on elderly subjects. This work examined the aging-related effects of temporal pressure on movement synchronization and dynamic stability. Sixteen young and eleven elderly subjects performed series of simultaneous rapid leg flexions in an erect posture paired with ipsilateral index-finger extensions, minimizing the difference between heel and finger movement onsets. This task was repeated ten times under two temporal conditions (self-initiated [SI] vs. reaction-time [RT]). Results showed that, first, temporal pressure modified movement synchronization; the finger extension preceded swing heel-off in RT, and inversely in SI. Synchronization error and associated standard deviation were significantly greater in elderly than in young adults in SI only, i.e. in the condition where proprioception is thought to be crucial for temporal coordination. Secondly, both groups developed a significantly shorter mediolateral (ML) anticipatory postural adjustment duration in RT (high temporal pressure) than in SI. In both groups, this shortening was compensated by an increase in the anticipatory peak of centre-of-gravity (CoG) acceleration towards the stance-leg so that ML dynamic stability at foot-off, quantified with the “extrapolated centre-of-mass”, remained unchanged across temporal conditions. This increased CoG acceleration was associated with an increased anticipatory peak of ML centre-of-pressure shift towards the swing-leg in young adults only. This suggested that the ability to accelerate the CoG with the centre-of-pressure shift was degraded in elderly, probably due to weakness in the lower limb muscles. Dynamic stability at foot-off was also degraded in elderly, with a consequent increased risk of ML imbalance and falling. The present study provides new insights into the ability of elderly adults to deal with temporal pressure constraints in adapting whole-body coordination of postural and focal components of paired movement.
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