Influence of aging on thermal and vibratory thresholds of quantitative sensory testing

J Peripher Nerv Syst. 2005 Sep;10(3):269-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1085-9489.2005.10305.x.


Quantitative sensory testing has become a common approach to evaluate thermal and vibratory thresholds in various types of neuropathies. To understand the effect of aging on sensory perception, we measured warm, cold, and vibratory thresholds by performing quantitative sensory testing on a population of 484 normal subjects (175 males and 309 females), aged 48.61 +/- 14.10 (range 20-86) years. Sensory thresholds of the hand and foot were measured with two algorithms: the method of limits (Limits) and the method of level (Level). Thresholds measured by Limits are reaction-time-dependent, while those measured by Level are independent of reaction time. In addition, we explored (1) the correlations of thresholds between these two algorithms, (2) the effect of age on differences in thresholds between algorithms, and (3) differences in sensory thresholds between the two test sites. Age was consistently and significantly correlated with sensory thresholds of all tested modalities measured by both algorithms on multivariate regression analysis compared with other factors, including gender, body height, body weight, and body mass index. When thresholds were plotted against age, slopes differed between sensory thresholds of the hand and those of the foot: for the foot, slopes were steeper compared with those for the hand for each sensory modality. Sensory thresholds of both test sites measured by Level were highly correlated with those measured by Limits, and thresholds measured by Limits were higher than those measured by Level. Differences in sensory thresholds between the two algorithms were also correlated with age: thresholds of the foot were higher than those of the hand for each sensory modality. This difference in thresholds (measured with both Level and Limits) between the hand and foot was also correlated with age. These findings suggest that age is the most significant factor in determining sensory thresholds compared with the other factors of gender and anthropometric parameters, and this provides a foundation for investigating the neurobiologic significance of aging on the processing of sensory stimuli.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Algorithms
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Weight
  • Differential Threshold / physiology*
  • Female
  • Foot / innervation
  • Hand / innervation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Threshold / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Thermosensing / physiology*
  • Vibration*