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. 2018 Jan 18;664:139-143.
doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2017.11.032. Epub 2017 Nov 14.

Visuospatial Function Predicts One-Week Motor Skill Retention in Cognitively Intact Older Adults

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Visuospatial Function Predicts One-Week Motor Skill Retention in Cognitively Intact Older Adults

Jennapher Lingo VanGilder et al. Neurosci Lett. .
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Motor learning declines with aging, such that older adults retain less motor skill after practice compared to younger adults. However, it remains unclear if these motor learning declines are related to normal cognitive changes associated with aging. The purpose of this study was to examine which cognitive domains would best predict the amount of retention on a motor task one week after training in cognitively intact older adults. Twenty-one adults ages 65-84 years old were assessed with Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status, which assesses five cognitive domains (immediate and delayed memory, visuospatial/constructional, language, and attention). Participants also completed one training session of a functional upper extremity task, and were re-tested one week later. Stepwise regression indicated that the visuospatial domain was the only significant predictor of how much skill participants retained over one week, with a visual perception subtest explaining the most variance. Results from this study support previous work reporting that older adults' capacity for motor learning can be probed with visuospatial tests. These tests may capture the structural or functional health of neural networks critical for skill learning within the aging brain, and provide valuable clinical insight about an individual's unique rehabilitation potential.

Keywords: Motor skills; Procedural memory; Upper extremity; Visual perception.

Conflict of interest statement

Conflict of Interest: The authors have no conflict of interest to report.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Mean ± standard error task performance for baseline, the nine remaining trials, and one-week follow-up trial. Task performance on the y-axis was measured as the time taken to complete each trial, yielding ‘trial time’ in which lower trial times indicate better task performance.
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Motor task results were plotted for all participants as a function of the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS) Visuospatial/Constructional Index score. Greater values along the x-axis indicate better Index scores. R2 and p values are reported for reference. A: Motor skill retention at one week is expressed as a percentage of baseline performance (Eq. 1), with more positive values indicating better retention. B: Baseline performance during the initial testing session is expressed in seconds, with lower times indicating better performance.

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