Smits-Engelsman, B. C. (2012). Changes in mental simulation of goal-directed movements in healthy adults aged 20-89. Presentation 1361 at the 59th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, San Francisco, California; May 29-June 2, 2012.

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This study examined age-related similarities and differences in duration of mental and actual goal-directed upper limb movements using a Fitts paradigm. Three groups of adults [young (N = 39; 20-29 years), senior (N = 23; 50-65years), and elderly (N = 29; 70-89 years); 97% right handed and 69% female] performed the Radial Fitts Task with five Indexes of Difficulty (2.91-6.91) on a digitizer.

The elderly group was significantly slower on the mental and executed tasks. However, there was no interaction with task condition (mental and executed), indicating that the mental and actual tasks slowed down comparably. In the analysis of goodness of fit for the Index of Difficulty there was a highly significant group effect. The elderly group adapted their movement time less to the task difficulty. No interaction with task (mental and executed) was found.

Implication. There are good correlations between motor imagery and motor execution duration across adult groups. The ability to mentally represent goal-directed actions persists as a constant human ability.

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