Declines in the ability to learn motor skills in older adults are commonly attributed to deficits in the encoding of sensorimotor information during motor practice. We investigated whether aging also impairs motor memory consolidation by assessing the susceptibility to memory interference and off-line gains in motor skill learning after practice in children, young, and older adults. Subjects performed a ballistic task (A) followed by an accuracy-tracking task (B) designed to disrupt the consolidation of A. Retention tests of A were performed immediately and 24 hours after B. Older adults showed greater susceptibility to memory interference and no off-line gains in motor skill learning. Performing B produced memory interference and reduced off-line gains only in the older group. However, older adults also showed deficits in memory consolidation independent of the interfering effects of B. Age-related declines in motor skill learning are not produced exclusively by deficits in the encoding of sensorimotor information during practice. Aging also increases the susceptibility to memory interference and reduces off-line gains in motor skill learning after practice.
Keywords: Aging; Interference; Motor memory; Motor skill; Procedural learning.
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