Single finger movements in the aging hand: changes in finger independence, muscle activation patterns and tendon displacement in older adults

Nathalie Van Beek, Dick F. Stegeman, Ilse Jonkers, Chris L. de Korte, Dirk Jan Veeger, Huub Maas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

With aging, hand mobility and manual dexterity decline, even under healthy circumstances. To assess how aging affects finger movement control, we compared elderly and young subjects with respect to (1) finger movement independence, (2) neural control of extrinsic finger muscles and (3) finger tendon displacements during single finger flexion. In twelve healthy older (age 68–84) and nine young (age 22–29) subjects, finger kinematics were measured to assess finger movement enslaving and the range of independent finger movement. Muscle activation was assessed using a multi-channel electrode grid placed over the flexor digitorum superficialis (FDS) and the extensor digitorum (ED). FDS tendon displacements of the index, middle and ring fingers were measured using ultrasound. In older subjects compared to the younger subjects, we found: (1) increased enslaving of the middle finger during index finger flexion (young: 25.6 ± 12.4%, elderly: 47.0 ± 25.1%; p = 0.018), (2) a lower range of independent movement of the index finger (young middle = 74.0%, elderly middle : 45.9%; p < 0.001), (3) a more evenly distributed muscle activation pattern over the finger-specific FDS and ED muscle regions and (4) a lower slope at the beginning of the finger movement to tendon displacement relationship, presenting a distinct period with little to no tendon displacement. Our study indicates that primarily the movement independence of the index finger is affected by aging. This can partly be attributed to a muscle activation pattern that is more evenly distributed over the finger-specific FDS and ED muscle regions in the elderly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1141-1154
Number of pages14
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Volume237
Issue number5
Early online date19 Feb 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2019

Funding

The authors thank the subjects for participating in the study, Barry Hes for assisting in the measurements, the department of Medical Ultrasound Imaging Center (MUSIC), especially Rik Hansen and Kaj Gijsbertse for their help with the ultrasound software, Henk Kortier, Josien van den Noort and Ed Droog from the University of Twente for their help with the PowerGlove and Bert Clairbois, Hans Agricola and Leon Schutte of the department of Human Movement Sciences for technical assistance. This research is funded by the European Commission through MOVE-AGE, an Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate program (2011-0015). Acknowledgements The authors thank the subjects for participating in the study, Barry Hes for assisting in the measurements, the department of Medical Ultrasound Imaging Center (MUSIC), especially Rik Hansen and Kaj Gijsbertse for their help with the ultrasound software, Henk Kortier, Josien van den Noort and Ed Droog from the University of Twente for their help with the PowerGlove and Bert Clairbois, Hans Agricola and Leon Schutte of the department of Human Movement Sciences for technical assistance. This research is funded by the European Commission through MOVE-AGE, an Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate program (2011-0015).

FundersFunder number
department of Medical Ultrasound Imaging Center
European Commission2011-0015
University of Twente

    Keywords

    • Finger enslaving
    • Motor control
    • Multi-channel EMG
    • Muscle coactivation
    • Tendon interconnections
    • Ultrasound

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