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Exp Brain Res. 2013 Nov;231(2):249-56. doi: 10.1007/s00221-013-3688-9. Epub 2013 Sep 1.

Effect of aging on inter-joint synergies during machine-paced assembly tasks.

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  • 1Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, 71 Frankland Road, Hopkinton, MA, 01748, USA,


In recent years, uncontrolled manifold (UCM) analysis has emerged as an important method to study variability of human movements. The current study investigated the upper extremity movements during typical assembly tasks using the framework of the UCM analysis. Younger and older participants performed machine-paced assembly tasks, while the kinematics of upper extremities were recorded using a motion tracking system. The upper extremity was modeled as a 7 degrees-of-freedom system. The variance of joint angles within the UCM space (V UCM) and the variance perpendicular to the UCM space (V ORT) were analyzed. The results indicated that V UCM were not significantly different for the older and younger groups. For the older group, V ORT was significantly less than the younger group and resulted in less total variance (V TOT) and a better synergy level (Z ΔV ). Therefore, the synergies of upper extremity movement may not be impaired for machine-paced tasks as people age. While current results showed a different effect of aging on the synergies of body movement compared with one previous study, they were in line with a recently proposed theory that for natural tasks, aging people did not have impairment in the ability to organize upper extremity movement into synergies.

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