The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of practice on simple reaction time (RT), movement time (MT), and response consistency for two arm-reaching tasks of graded complexity in younger and older adults. Forty subjects, 20 younger adults (age range = 20–29 years) and 20 older adults (age range = 60–82 years), were randomly subdivided into practice and control groups. All subjects were pretested on each arm-reaching movement on Day 1. The practice groups practiced each task for 160 trials over 2 consecutive days while the control groups practiced a memory task and answered a health survey. All subjects were posttested on Day 3. The major finding was that practice reduced the simple RTs of older persons to the level of younger persons. MTs for both practice age groups were reduced, but the age differences in MT performance were maintained.
Kathye E. Light and Andrea L. Behrman are with the Department of Physical Therapy, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610-0154. Marie A. Reilly is with the Department of Physical Therapy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599. Waneen W. Spirduso is with the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712.