Age-related differences and the role of augmented visual feedback in learning a bimanual coordination pattern
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of aging and the role of augmented visual information in the acquisition of a new bimanual coordination pattern, namely a 90 degrees relative phase pattern. In a pilot study, younger and older adults received augmented visual feedback in the form of a real-time orthogonal display of both limb movements after every fifth trial. Younger adults acquired this task over three days of practice and retained the task well over periods of one week and one month of no practice while the older adults showed no improvement at all on the task. It was hypothesized that the amount of augmented information was not sufficient for the older adults to overcome the strong tendency to perform natural, intrinsically stable coordination patterns, which consequently prevented them from learning the task. The present study evaluated the age-related role of augmented visual feedback for learning the new pattern. Participants were randomly assigned within age groups to receive either concurrent or terminal visual feedback after every trial in acquisition. In contrast to the pilot study, all of the older adults learned the pattern, although not to the same level as the younger adults. Both younger and older adults benefitted from concurrent visual feedback, but the older adults gained more from the concurrent feedback than the younger adults, relative to terminal feedback conditions. The results suggest that when learning bimanual coordination patterns, older adults are more sensitive to the structure of the practice conditions, particularly the availability of concurrent visual information. This greater sensitivity to the learning environment may reflect a diminished capacity for inhibitory control and a decreased ability to focus attention on the salient aspects of learning the task.
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