People can quickly adjust their goal-directed hand movements to an unexpected visual perturbation (a target jump or background motion). Does this ability decrease with age? We examined how aging affects both the timing and vigor of fast manual and postural adjustments to visual perturbations. Young and older adults stood in front of a horizontal screen. They were instructed to tap on targets presented on the screen as quickly and accurately as possible by moving their hand in the sagittal direction. In some trials, the target or the background moved laterally when the hand started to move. The young and older adults tapped equally accurately, but older adults' movement times were about 160 ms longer. The manual responses were similar for the young and older adults, but the older adults took about 15 ms longer to respond to both kinds of visual perturbations. The manual responses were also less vigorous for the older adults. In contrast to the young adults, the older adults responded more strongly to the motion of the background than to the target jump, probably because the elderly rely more on visual information for their posture. Thus, aging delays responses to visual perturbations, while at the same time making people rely more on the visual surrounding to adjust goal-directed movements.
- Postural control
- Visual information