Practice and age-related loss of adaptability in sensorimotor performance

Jacob J. Sosnoff, Stefani J. Voudrie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of the present investigation was to examine whether the ability to adapt to task constraints is influenced by short-term practice in older adults. Young (18-29 years old) and old (65-75 years old) adults produced force output to a constant force target and a 1-Hz sinusoidal force target by way of the index finger flexion. Participants completed each task 5 times per session for 5 concurrent sessions. The amount and structure of force variability was calculated using linear and nonlinear analyses. As expected, there was a decrease in the magnitude of variability (coefficient of variation) in both tasks and task-related change in the structure of force variability (approximate entropy) with training across groups. The authors found older adults to have a greater amount of variability than their younger counterparts in both tasks. Older adults also demonstrated an increase in the structure of force output in the constant task but a decrease in structure in the sinusoidal task. Age differences in the adaptability to task constraints persisted throughout practice. The authors propose that older adults' ability to adapt sensorimotor output to task demands is not a result of lack of familiarity with the task but that it is, instead, characteristic of the aging process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-146
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Motor Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2009


  • Force control
  • Loss of complexity
  • Variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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