Contrasting effects of fatigue on multifinger coordination in young and older adults. J Appl Physiol 115: 456 - 467, 2013. First published June 6, 2013; doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00375.2013.-We investigated the effects of fatigue produced by timed maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) of the index finger of the right hand on performance in MVC and accurate cyclic force production tasks in right-handed young (Young group) and strength-matched elderly (Elderly group) participants. We hypothesized that, before fatigue, the Elderly group would show weaker force-stabilizing synergies and smaller adaptive changes in the synergy index during fatigue. Synergies were defined as covaried adjustments of neural commands to fingers (finger modes) across trials that stabilize total force. Fatigue caused a significant reduction in the MVC, which was larger in the Young group compared with the Elderly group for both fatigued finger (index finger) and four fingers (index, middle, ring, and little fingers pressing together). Indexes of finger enslaving (lack of individuation) increased with fatigue in both groups. The index of force-stabilizing synergies was similar for the two groups before fatigue, while its increase with fatigue was significantly larger in the Elderly group compared with the Young group. We infer that changes in the indexes of finger interaction (enslaving) and coordination (synergy) with age seem to be correlated with changes in muscle strength. This correlation may be causally related to the progressive death of neurons at different levels of the neuromotor hierarchy. The surprisingly large changes in the synergy index with fatigue in older adults suggest that, by itself, aging does not necessarily lead to impairment in synergic control. Strength training may be a method to avoid age-related decrement in finger interaction and coordination.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physiology (medical)