This study investigated age-related differences in tapping speed with respect to warm-up and fatigue effects and also with respect to task complexity. An additional purpose was to determine the site of age-related slowing in stationary tapping. Adult females from three different age groups were asked to tap as fast as possible for 25 s with a specified digit combination by depressing microswitches on one or two metal boxes that were mounted on a data acquisition board. All groups showed a warm-up period during the first block, reached their peak tapping speed during the second block, and then gradually fatigued, as indicated by a decreasing number of taps. These findings suggest that to assess true tapping speed, a trial should not last more than 15 s, or the results may be confounded by fatigue effects. It was found that tapping with the thumb and index finger simultaneously is more difficult than tapping with one or both index fingers, regardless of age.
The authors are with the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, The University of Texas at Austin, 222 Bellmont Hall, Austin, TX 78712.