Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Skill acquisition is a form of motor learning that may provide key insights into the aging brain. Although previous work suggests that older adults learn novel motor tasks slower and to a lesser extent than younger adults, we have recently demonstrated no significant effect of chronological age on the rates and amounts of skill acquisition, nor on its longterm retention, in adults over the age of 65. To better understand predictors of skill acquisition in non-demented older adults, we now explore the relationship between early improvements in motor performance due to practice (i.e., rapid responsiveness) and longer-term retention of an upper extremity motor skill, and whether the extent of rapid responsiveness was associated with global cognitive status. Results showed significant improvements in motor performance within the first five (of 150) trials, and that this “rapid responsiveness” was predictive of skill retention 1 month later. Notably, the extent of rapid responsiveness was not dependent on global cognitive status, as measured by the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA). Thus, rapid responsiveness appears to be an important variable in longer-term neurorehabilitative efforts with older adults, regardless of their cognitive status.
Schaefer SY and Duff K (2015) Rapid Responsiveness to Practice Predicts Longer-Term Retention of Upper Extremity Motor Skill in Non-Demented Older Adults. Front. Aging Neurosci. 7:214. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2015.00214