How the motor system copes with aging: a quantitative meta-analysis of the effect of aging on motor function control

Commun Biol. 2022 Jan 20;5(1):79. doi: 10.1038/s42003-022-03027-2.


Motor cognitive functions and their neurophysiology evolve and degrade along the lifespan in a dramatic fashion. Current models of how the brain adapts to aging remain inspired primarily by studies on memory or language processes. Yet, aging is strongly associated with reduced motor independence and the associated degraded interaction with the environment: accordingly, any neurocognitive model of aging not considering the motor system is, ipso facto, incomplete. Here we present a meta-analysis of forty functional brain-imaging studies to address aging effects on motor control. Our results indicate that motor control is associated with aging-related changes in brain activity, involving not only motoric brain regions but also posterior areas such as the occipito-temporal cortex. Notably, some of these differences depend on the specific nature of the motor task and the level of performance achieved by the participants. These findings support neurocognitive models of aging that make fewer anatomical assumptions while also considering tasks-dependent and performance-dependent manifestations. Besides the theoretical implications, the present data also provide additional information for the motor rehabilitation domain, indicating that motor control is a more complex phenomenon than previously understood, to which separate cognitive operations can contribute and decrease in different ways with aging.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*