Age-related changes in the neural correlates of motor performance

Brain. 2003 Apr;126(Pt 4):873-88. doi: 10.1093/brain/awg071.


Age-related neurodegenerative and neurochemical changes are thought to underlie decline in motor and cognitive functions, but compensatory processes in cortical and subcortical function may allow maintenance of performance level in some people. Our objective was to investigate age-related changes in the motor system of the human brain using functional MRI. Twenty six right handed volunteers were scanned whilst performing an isometric, dynamic, visually paced hand grip task, using dominant (right) and non-dominant (left) hands in separate sessions. Hand grip with visual feedback activated a network of cortical and subcortical regions known to be involved in the generation of simple motor acts. In addition, activation was seen in a putative human 'grasping circuit', involving rostral ventral premotor cortex (Brodmann area 44) and intraparietal sulcus. Within this network, a number of regions were more likely to be activated the older the subject. In particular, age-related changes in task- specific activations were demonstrated in left deep anterior central sulcus when using the dominant or non-dominant hand. Additional age-related increases were seen in caudal dorsal premotor cortex, caudal cingulate sulcus, intraparietal sulcus, insula, frontal operculum and cerebellar vermis. We have demonstrated a clear age-related effect in the neural correlates of motor performance, and furthermore suggest that these changes are non-linear. These results support the notion that an adaptable and plastic motor network is able to respond to age-related degenerative changes in order to maintain performance levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Random Allocation