Association Between Executive Functions, Working Memory, and Manual Dexterity in Young and Healthy Older Adults: An Exploratory Study

Percept Mot Skills. 2016 Feb;122(1):165-92. doi: 10.1177/0031512516628370. Epub 2016 Feb 1.


Aging is accompanied by declines in cognitive and sensorimotor functions. However, at present, the interrelation between attentional processes and dexterity in aging has not been thoroughly addressed. This study explored the relationship between executive function, working memory, and dexterity performance in 15 young and 15 healthy elderly, right-handed participants. A modified version of the Purdue Pegboard Test was used for dexterity assessment. Two subtasks were selected to calculate temporal and kinematic parameters of reaching, grasping, transport, and insertion of pegs. Evaluation of executive function and working memory was performed using neuropsychological tests. The relationship between dexterity and cognitive outcomes were also examined. Results showed that the prehensile movements involved in grasping and their speed significantly differed between groups and correlated with executive function in the young group. For elderly adults, variability of hand movements turned out to be associated with executive abilities.

Keywords: dexterity; executive functions; kinematics; normal aging; working memory.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Attention / physiology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hand / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Young Adult