Cognitive and Motor Perseveration Are Associated in Older Adults

Front Aging Neurosci. 2021 Apr 27;13:610359. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2021.610359. eCollection 2021.


Aging causes perseveration (difficulty to switch between actions) in motor and cognitive tasks, suggesting that the same neural processes could govern these abilities in older adults. To test this, we evaluated the relation between independently measured motor and cognitive perseveration in young (21.4 ± 3.7 y/o) and older participants (76.5 ± 2.9 y/o). Motor perseveration was measured with a locomotor task in which participants had to transition between distinct walking patterns. Cognitive perseveration was measured with a card matching task in which participants had to switch between distinct matching rules. We found that perseveration in the cognitive and motor domains were positively related in older, but not younger individuals, such that participants exhibiting greater perseveration in the motor task also perseverated more in the cognitive task. Additionally, exposure reduces motor perseveration: older adults who had practiced the motor task could transition between walking patterns as proficiently as naïve, young individuals. Our results suggest an overlap in neural processes governing cognitive and motor perseveration with aging and that exposure can counteract the age-related motor perseveration.

Keywords: aging; generalization; locomotion; motor adaptation; perseveration; set-shifting; split-belt treadmill.