The effects of age and attention on motor overflow production--A review

Brain Res Rev. 2007 Apr;54(1):189-204. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2007.01.004. Epub 2007 Jan 20.


Motor overflow refers to overt involuntary movement, or covert muscle activity, that sometimes co-occurs with voluntary movement. Various clinical populations exhibit overflow. Motor overflow is also present in healthy children and the elderly, although in young adults, overt overflow is considered abnormal unless elicited under conditions of extreme force or muscle fatigue. Current theories of overflow imply that the corpus callosum may mediate production of this phenomenon. However, given that the corpus callosum is a conduit enabling the transfer of cortical information, surprisingly few studies have considered the cortical or subcortical structures underlying overflow. This review considers the developmental trend of motor overflow production, specifically in the upper-limbs, and the mechanisms thought to underlie this age-related phenomenon. Potential neurological correlates of motor overflow will be discussed in conjunction with higher order attentional processes which also regulate motor overflow production. Future research investigating the impact of attentional processes on overflow production may be particularly valuable for designing rehabilitation strategies for patients experiencing induced pathological overflow or conversely, to develop techniques to encourage the recovery of movement function in individuals with paretic limbs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging* / physiology
  • Animals
  • Attention* / physiology
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Central Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Corpus Callosum / physiology
  • Corpus Callosum / physiopathology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Movement Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Movement* / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology