We studied age-related changes in the performance of maximal and accurate submaximal force and moment production tasks. Elderly and young subjects pressed on six dimensional force sensors affixed to a handle with a T-shaped attachment. The weight of the whole system was counter-balanced with another load. During tasks that required the production of maximal force or maximal moment by all of the digits, young subjects were stronger than elderly. A greater age-related deficit was seen in the maximal moment production tests. During maximal force production tests, elderly subjects showed larger relative involvement of the index and middle fingers; they moved the point of thumb force application upward (toward the index and middle fingers), whereas the young subjects rolled the thumb downward. During accurate force/moment production trials, elderly persons were less accurate in the production of both total moment and total force. They produced higher antagonistic moments, i.e., moment by fingers that acted against the required direction of the total moment. Both young and elderly subjects showed negative covariation of finger forces across repetitions of a ramp force production task. In accurate moment production tasks, both groups showed negative covariation of two components of the total moment: those produced by the normal forces and those produced by the tangential forces. However, elderly persons showed lower values of the indexes of both finger force covariation and moment covariation. We conclude that age is associated with an impaired ability to produce both high moments and accurate time profiles of moments. This impairment goes beyond the well-documented deficits in finger and hand force production by elderly persons. It involves worse coordination of individual digit forces and of components of the total moment. Some atypical characteristics of finger forces may be viewed as adaptive to the increased variability in the force production with age.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physiology (medical)