Are there age-related differences in learning to optimize speed, accuracy, and energy expenditure?
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Studies of age-related differences in manual aiming have indicated that older adults take longer to complete their movements than their younger counterparts because they tend to rely on time-consuming feedback-based control processes. Many authors have suggested that the reliance on feedback is the result of a "play-it-safe" strategy that has been adopted to compensate for a deterioration in accurate and consistent force generation. That is, perhaps because older adults know that their motor systems are not as reliable as the systems were at a younger age, they plan shorter movements that conserve time and space for feedback control to correct their programmed actions. The vast majority of the previous studies that have revealed these age-related differences in aiming, however, have used computer-based tasks that involve the transformation of perceptual into motor space. In the present experiment, older and younger adults completed real aiming movements over three sessions. The results suggest that, when acting in a real environment, the main difference between older and younger adults in movement execution lies in the efficient use of response-related feedback, not in the programming of movement.
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