You can help your grandparents! A motor mechanism that has been attributed primarily to early development in babies and toddlers can also help older adults to improve their movement accuracy, suggests a new study.
Researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Beersheba, Israel, have suggested that an infant's exploration process can work in older adults, as well.
The researchers hypothesized that older participants would not be able to maintain an increase in speed and amplitude of movement over time due to fatigue, but were surprised to discover that making mistakes helped improve future task performance.
"In early development, babies seem to make random movements in all directions until they learn to purposefully reach for objects," said author Dr. Shelly Levy-Tzedek.
"Their movements are variable until they find a solution for the problem at hand, like reaching for that Cheerios bit. When they find a good movement plan, they exploit it," Dr. Tzedek said.
In the study, the arms of older adults (ages 70+) were connected to a sensor that measures the rotation of the arm at the elbow.
The participants were then asked to make rhythmic movements of the forearm in a "windshield wiper" motion while trying to maintain certain speeds and arm amplitude, with and without visual feedback.
Dr. Levy-Tzedek stated that at first "their movements were too slow and too small. But when they were encouraged to make movements that were larger and faster, and their performance on the original task improved significantly.
They also found that once a better movement pattern was established, the variability dropped. Making exaggerated movements actually helped them fine-tune their control.
"Getting older adults to make exaggerated movements can help fine-tune their performance on specific tasks that they find difficult to accomplish otherwise," says Dr. Levy-Tzedek.
The study is published in journal of Scientific Reports.