Optimizing Motor Learning in Older Adults

Zahra Khalaji, Maryam Nezakat Alhosseini, Shila Safavi Hamami, Takehiro Iwatsuki, Gabriele Wulf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: According to the Optimizing Performance Through Intrinsic Motivation and Attention for Learning (OPTIMAL) theory of Wulf and Lewthwaite, enhanced expectancies (EE), autonomy support (AS), and an external focus (EF) of attention facilitate motor performance and learning. The present study examined whether consecutive implementation of EE, AS, and EF during practice would enhance the learning of a square-stepping task in older adults. METHODS: Participants were randomly assigned to optimized and control groups. After the pretest, 1 of the 3 factors was implemented during each of the three 12-trial practice blocks, in a counterbalanced order, in the optimized group: positive feedback (EE), choice of mat color (AS), and instructions to focus on the squares (EF). Control group participants practiced without any of these factors. RESULTS: Results indicated that the optimized group had faster movement times than the control group during the practice phase and on 24-hr retention and transfer tests. DISCUSSION: The key variables in the OPTIMAL theory can be applied sequentially in order to facilitate motor performance and learning in older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalThe journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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