Embodiment in the aging mind

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2018 Mar;86:207-225. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.11.016. Epub 2017 Nov 22.


Bodily awareness is a central component of human sensation, action, and cognition. The human body is subject to profound changes over the adult lifespan. We live in an aging society: the mean age of people living in industrialized countries is currently over 40 years, and further increases are expected. Nevertheless, there is a lack of comprehensive knowledge that links changes in embodiment that occur with age to neuronal mechanisms and associated sensorimotor and cognitive deficits in older adults. Here, we synthesize existing evidence and introduce the NFL Framework of Embodied Aging, which links basic neuronal (N) mechanisms of age-related sensorimotor decline to changes in functional (F) bodily impairments, including deficits in higher-level cognitive functions, and impairments in daily life (L). We argue that cognitive and daily life impairments associated with old age are often due to deficits in embodiment, which can partly be linked to neuronal degradation at the sensorimotor level. The framework may encourage the development of novel approaches to improve autonomous living for older adults.

Keywords: Aging; Cognition; Embodiment; Emotion; Motor; Sensory; Social perception; Spatial navigation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Body Image*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology*
  • Humans