Navigation Links
Older adult clumsiness linked to brain changes

For many older adults, the aging process seems to go hand-in-hand with an annoying increase in clumsiness difficulties dialing a phone, fumbling with keys in a lock or knocking over the occasional wine glass while reaching for a salt shaker.

While it's easy to see these failings as a normal consequence of age-related breakdowns in agility, vision and other physical abilities, new research from Washington University in St. Louis suggests that some of these day-to-day reaching-and-grasping difficulties may be be caused by changes in the mental frame of reference that older adults use to visualize nearby objects.

"Reference frames help determine what in our environment we will pay attention to and they can affect how we interact with objects, such as controls for a car or dishes on a table," said study co-author Richard Abrams, PhD, professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences.

"Our study shows that in addition to physical and perceptual changes, difficulties in interaction may also be caused by changes in how older adults mentally represent the objects near them."

Published in the journal Psychological Science, the study is co-authored by two recent graduates of the psychology graduate program at Washington University. The lead author, Emily K. Bloesch, PhD, is now a postdoctoral teaching associate at Central Michigan University. The third co-author, Christopher C. Davoli, PhD, is a postdoctoral psychology researcher at the University of Notre Dame.

When tested on a series of simple tasks involving hand movements, young people in this study adopted an attentional reference frame centered on the hand, while older study participants adopted a reference frame centered on the body.

Young adults, the researchers explain, have been shown to use an "action-centered" reference frame that is sensitive to the movements they are making. So, when young people move their hands to pick up an object, they remain aware of and sensitive to potential obstacles along the movement path. Older adults, on the other hand, tend to devote more attention to objects that are closer to their bodies whether they are on the action path or not.

"We showed in our paper that older adults do not use an "action centered" reference frame. Instead they use a "body centered" one," Bloesch said. "As a result, they might be less able to effectively adjust their reaching movements to avoid obstacles and that's why they might knock over the wine glass after reaching for the salt shaker."

These findings mesh well with other research that has documented age-related physical declines in several areas of the brain that are responsible for hand-eye coordination. Older adults exhibit volumetric declines in the parietal cortex and intraparietal sulcus, as well as white-matter loss in the parietal lobe and precuneus. These declines may make the use of an action-centered reference frame difficult or impossible.

"These three areas are highly involved in visually guided hand actions like reaching and grasping and in creating attentional reference frames that are used to guide such actions. These neurological changes in older adults suggest that their representations of the space around them may be compromised relative to those of young adults and that, consequently, young and older adults might encode and attend to near-body space in fundamentally different ways," the study finds.

As the U.S. population ages, research on these issues is becoming increasingly important. An estimated 60-to-70 percent of the elderly population reports difficulty with activities of daily living, such as eating and bathing and many show deficiencies in performing goal-directed hand movements. Knowing more about these aging-related changes in spatial representation, the researchers suggest, may eventually inspire options for skills training and other therapies to help seniors compensate for the cognitive declines that influence hand-eye coordination


Contact: Gerry Everding
Washington University in St. Louis

Related medicine news :

1. Eagle Ridge of Decatur Affordable Assisted Living to Host Low Impact Exercise Program for Older Adults
2. Beverly Hills Hair Loss Specialists Q&A by Dr. John Kahen - Will I Be Bald When I'm Older?
3. Da Vinci Lawsuit Update: Bernstein Liebhard LLP Notes Commencement of Shareholder Class Action Da Vinci Related Lawsuit Against Intuitive Surgical
4. Conscious Aging In Camden: Workshops Explore Getting Older
5. New DRE, Inc. LED Conversion Kit Allows Doctors to Upgrade Older Halogen Technology Without Replacing Entire Lighting Systems
6. Study: Older Whooping Cough Vaccine More Effective
7. Older adults memory lapses linked to problems processing everyday events
8. Traumatic brain injury poses complex diagnostic, management and treatment challenges in older people
9. Zamansky & Associates LLC Investigates Chemed Corporation For Possible Securities Law Violations And Breaches Of Fiduciary Duties To Shareholders
10. Exercise May Lower Older Womens Risk for Kidney Stones
11. Drivers education for older drivers remains for 2 years, HF/E researcher finds
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... 2016 , ... The OSHA Training Center at Chabot-Las ... headquartered in Northern California, has issued an important reminder to employers to prevent ... Employers with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... Viejo, California (PRWEB) , ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... are fully customizable inside of Final Cut Pro X," said Christina Austin - CEO ... another unique style. Final Cut Pro X users can now reveal the ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... ... TherapySites, the leading website and online marketing ... Association. This new relationship allows TherapySites to continue to extend their online ... and promotional offers. , "TCA is extremely excited about this new partnership, as ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... patient payment industry today announced its strategic partnership with Connance, a healthcare ... , The two companies’ proven, proprietary technology combine to provide health systems, ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... A revolution ... the emergency ambulance transport experience for the millions of people who require these ... disrupted the taxi industry through the use of technology. Now, SmartEMS has put ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/26/2016)... -- One of Australia,s successful biotechnology scientists, ... new biotechnology company, Noxopharm Limited [ABN 50 608 966 123] ("Noxopharm"). ... list on the ASX. Noxopharm is a clinic-ready company ... Phase 1 clinical study later this year. ... biggest problems facing cancer patients - the ability of cancers to ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... -- Jazz Pharmaceuticals plc (Nasdaq: JAZZ ) ... Improvements Act of 1976, as amended ("HSR"), with respect ... Nasdaq: CPXX ) expired effective June 24, ... As previously announced on May 31, 2016, Jazz Pharmaceuticals ... which Jazz Pharmaceuticals has commenced a tender offer for ...
(Date:6/26/2016)...  VMS Rehab Systems, Inc. ( ) reported ... required to build a strong and stable market for ... on the OTC Markets-pink current trading platform. ... are seeing an anomaly in market trading activities that ... the Company, but shareholders and market players as well. ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: