Cortical Proprioceptive Processing Is Altered by Aging

Front Aging Neurosci. 2018 Jun 14:10:147. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2018.00147. eCollection 2018.


Proprioceptive perception is impaired with aging, but little is known about aging-related deterioration of proprioception at the cortical level. Corticokinematic coherence (CKC) between limb kinematic and magnetoencephalographic (MEG) signals reflects cortical processing of proprioceptive afference. We, thus, compared CKC strength to ankle movements between younger and older subjects, and examined whether CKC predicts postural stability. Fifteen younger (range 18-31 years) and eight older (66-73 years) sedentary volunteers were seated in MEG, while their right and left ankle joints were moved separately at 2 Hz (for 4 min each) using a novel MEG-compatible ankle-movement actuator. Coherence was computed between foot acceleration and MEG signals. CKC strength at the movement frequency (F0) and its first harmonic (F1) was quantified. In addition, postural sway was quantified during standing eyes-open and eyes-closed tasks to estimate motor performance. CKC peaked in the gradiometers over the vertex, and was significantly stronger (~76%) at F0 for the older than younger subjects. At F1, only the dominant-leg CKC was significantly stronger (~15%) for the older than younger subjects. In addition, CKC (at F1) was significantly stronger in the non-dominant than dominant leg, but only in the younger subjects. Postural sway was significantly (~64%) higher in the older than younger subjects when standing with eyes closed. Regression models indicated that CKC strength at F1 in the dominant leg and age were the only significant predictors for postural sway. Our results indicated that aging-related cortical-proprioceptive processing is altered by aging. Stronger CKC may reflect poorer cortical proprioceptive processing, and not solely the amount of proprioceptive afference as suggested earlier. In combination with ankle-movement actuator, CKC can be efficiently used to unravel proprioception-related-neuronal mechanisms and the related plastic changes in aging, rehabilitation, motor-skill acquisition, motor disorders etc.

Keywords: aging; balance; coherence; passive movement; proprioception; sensorimotor cortex; sensorimotor integration; somatosensory.