Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Older adult clumsiness linked to brain changes

05.06.2013
Seniors use less effective reference frames to visualize nearby objects

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.”

The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, 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

This research, supported by Grant AG0030 from the National Institute on Aging.

Gerry Everding | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wustl.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Study suggests possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer's
02.12.2016 | Oregon Health & Science University

nachricht The first analysis of Ewing's sarcoma methyloma opens doors to new treatments
01.12.2016 | IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

High-precision magnetic field sensing

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Construction of practical quantum computers radically simplified

05.12.2016 | Information Technology

NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica

05.12.2016 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>