Measuring Change in Somatosensation Across the Lifespan
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OBJECTIVE: The study aim was to determine natural variability in somatosensation across age groups using brief measures. We validated measures in a community-dwelling population as part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Toolbox for Assessment of Neurological and Behavioral Function (NIH Toolbox; http://www.nihtoolbox.org). METHOD: Participants included community-dwelling children and adults (N=367, ages 3-85 yr) across seven sites. We tested haptic recognition, touch detection-discrimination, and proprioception using brief affordable measures as required by the NIH Toolbox. RESULTS: Accuracy improved from young children to young adults; from young to older adults, the pattern reversed slightly. We found significant differences between adults and older adults. One proprioception test (kinesthesia; p=.003) showed gender differences (females more accurate). We provide expected score ranges for age groups as a basis for understanding age-related expectations for somatosensory perception. CONCLUSION: The age-related patterns of somatosensory perception from this study refine decision making about performance.
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