Age effects on voluntary and automatic adjustments in anti-pointing tasks

Marion Verneau, John van der Kamp, Michiel P. de Looze, Geert J. P. Savelsbergh

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We examined the effects of age on automatic and voluntary motor adjustments in pointing tasks. To this end, young (20–25 years) and middle-aged adults (48–62 years) were instructed to point at a target that could unexpectedly change its location (to the left or right) or its color (to green or red) during the movement. In the location change conditions, participants were asked to either adjust their pointing movement toward the new location (i.e., normal pointing) or in the opposite direction (i.e., anti-pointing). In the color change conditions, participants were instructed to adjust their movement to the left or right depending on the change in color. The results showed that in a large proportion of the anti-pointing trials, participants made two adjustments: an early initial automatic adjustment in the direction of the target shift followed by a late voluntary adjustment toward the opposite direction. It was found that the late voluntary adjustments were delayed for the middle-aged participants relative to the young participants. There were no age differences for the fast automatic adjustment in normal pointing, but the early adjustment in anti-pointing tended to be later in the middle-aged adults. Finally, the difference in the onset of early and late adjustments in anti-pointing adjustments was greater among the middle-aged adults. Hence, this study is the first to show that aging slows down voluntary goal-directed movement control processes to greater extent than the automatic stimulus-driven processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-428
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


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