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Eur J Neurosci. 2008 Jan;27(1):254-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2007.05975.x.

Neural correlates of movement preparation in healthy ageing.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK.


Motor disorders increase dramatically with age; however, little is known about non-clinical ageing of motor control mechanisms and their respective neural correlates. With the present experiment we aimed to study age effects on advance movement preparation, a key characteristic of motor behaviour that is known to involve premotor and primary motor circuits. The respective brain regions are subject to age-related brain atrophy of grey and white matter, and we therefore hypothesized that motor preparation mechanisms may be altered in older persons. Using a motor priming paradigm, performance data and event-related potentials were recorded in older (68-83 years) and younger (21-25 years) participants. The effect pattern observed for the younger group fully replicated previous findings, showing significant reaction time benefits and greater foreperiod activity for valid trials, as well as lateralized activation over motor regions. In older participants, the validity effect was insignificant, which corresponded to markedly reduced foreperiod amplitudes and the absence of lateralized activity. At the same time, the event-related potential showed a frontocentrally distributed positive component peaking in the P300 latency range after presentation of the prime. The amplitude of this potential was enhanced in elderly compared with young participants. The data suggest that the information processing related to the anticipation and preparation of an upcoming response changes substantially with age. In contrast to younger participants, older participants show no indication of effector-specific activation and recruit frontal areas in anticipation of a response signal. It is therefore not only movement execution that changes with age but also motor cognition.

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