Date of Award

5-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Departmental Honors

Department

Kinesiology and Health Science

Faculty Mentor

Sydney Schaefer

Departmental Honors Advisor

Breanna Studenka

Capstone Committee Member

Eadric Bressel

Abstract

Theories of motor learning predict that humans require high levels of attention to perform new motor tasks, but little to no attention for those that are well-learned. Thus, practicing a task may decrease the amount of attention required to perform it. To test this theoretical relationship between attention and task practice, we used a physiological proxy for attention known as electrodermal activity (EDA). We hypothesized that 1) EDA (proxy for attention) would decrease over the course of training and that 2) attention would be higher overall in older adults than in younger adults when performing the same task. This second hypothesis was based on the tendency for older adults to require more attention than younger adults during a given motor task. Two groups of participants (young adult- n=S; mean± SD age=22.4 ± 2.1 yrs vs. older adult- n=S; age=75.8 ± 5.2 yrs) practiced 150 trials of a novel upper extremity task over three days. During each trial, we measured 1) task performance, defined as movement time (seconds, ors) and 2) EDA (μSiemens, or μS) using wrist-worn sensors. Contrary to our first hypothesis, EDA increased with practice, suggesting that additional training may be necessary to reduce the task' s attentional requirements. Results did, however, support our second hypothesis, with higher EDA in older adults compared to younger adults throughout practice. This suggests that older adults may use more attention than younger adults to perform a given task in order to compensate for other age-related declines in sensorimotor function.

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