Age-related differences in neural spectral power during motor learning

Laura Milena Rueda-Delgado*, Kirstin Friederike Heise, Andreas Daffertshofer, Dante Mantini, Stephan Patrick Swinnen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We investigated how older adults preserve the capability to acquire new motor skills in the face of age-related brain alterations. We assessed neural changes associated with learning a bimanual coordination task over 4 days of practice in healthy young (n = 24) and older adults (n = 24). The electroencephalogram was recorded during task performance at the start and end of training. Motor performance improved with practice in both groups, but the amount of learning was lower in the older adults. Beta power (15–30 Hz) in sensorimotor and prefrontal cortices of older adults was reduced with training, indicative of higher neural activity. We also found a functional reorganization after training in beta and alpha (8–12 Hz) bands. Between-session changes in alpha and beta power differed between groups in several cortical areas: young adults exhibited reduced power in the beta band in sensorimotor cortices, whereas older adults displayed a smaller decrease. Our findings indicate a less flexible reorganization of neural activity accompanying learning in older adults compared with young adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-57
Number of pages14
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Early online date6 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Aging
  • Electroencephalography
  • Linear mixed-effects model
  • Motor learning
  • Spectral analysis


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