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Differential Transfer Processes in Incremental Visuomotor Adaptation

Rachael D. Seidler

Visuomotor adaptive processes were examined by testing transfer of adaptation between similar conditions. Participants made manual aiming movements with a joystick to hit targets on a computer screen, with real-time feedback display of their movement. They adapted to three different rotations of the display in a sequential fashion, with a return to baseline display conditions between rotations. Adaptation was better when participants had prior adaptive experiences. When performance was assessed using direction error (calculated at the time of peak velocity) and initial endpoint error (error before any overt corrective actions), transfer was greater when the final rotation reflected an addition of previously experienced rotations (adaptation order 30° rotation, 15°, 45°) than when it was a subtraction of previously experienced conditions (adaptation order 45° rotation, 15°, 30°). Transfer was equal regardless of adaptation order when performance was assessed with final endpoint error (error following any discrete, corrective actions). These results imply the existence of multiple independent processes in visuomotor adaptation.

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Coactivation to Reduce Variability in the Elderly

Rachael D. Seidler-Dobrin, jiping He, and George E. Stelmach

The aim of this experiment was to determine whether elderly persons exhibit reciprocal phasing of muscle activity and scale EMG burst amplitude in the same manner as young people. Seven young and 7 elderly adults performed 30° elbow flexion movements at 800 ms duration to a visual target against varying inertial loads. The elderly were not able to achieve the required movement duration as frequently and spent a greater portion of the movement accelerating than the young. The young and the elderly subjects scaled EMG burst amplitude to the increasing loads in the same fashion, although the elderly subjects coactivated the agonisthtagonist muscles more than did the young subjects and thus did not accelerate the limb as rapidly. We hypothesized that the elderly used coactivation to reduce movement variability, and we developed a single-joint model with two muscles to examine this hypothesis. The model simulation correctly predicted the variability reduction due to coactivation. It appears, however, that this reduces the capability to accelerate rapidly.

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Changes in Multi-Joint Performance with Age

Rachael D. Seidler, Jay L. Alberts, and George E. Stelmach

The purpose of this study was to determine whether elderly adults exhibit deficits in the performance of multi-joint movements. Two groups of subjects (mean ages, 68.9 and 30.1 years, respectively) participated in this experiment. Subjects performed planar arm pointing movements to various targets. One target could be achieved via elbow extension only, while the remaining 3 required both elbow extension and horizontal shoulder flexion, thus requiring coordination at the 2 joints. In contrast to the young adults, the elderly adults produced movements that became less smooth and less accurate with increasing shoulder joint contribution. The results imply a selective coordination deficit for the elderly adults. In addition, the elderly adults coactivated opposing muscles more than the young adults for the single-joint movement. However, the elderly adults reduced coactivation at both joints for the 2-joint actions, while the young adults did not. These data suggest a relationship between high coactivation levels and good performance for elderly adults. It may be more difficult for the elderly to implement high coactivation levels for multi-joint movements because of the increased energy costs and complexity of planning required in comparison to the single joint actions. Thus, to achieve motor performance, elderly persons appear to use coactivation in a manner that is fundamentally different than young adults.