Adaptation of reach action to a novel force-field is not predicted by acuity of dynamic proprioception in either older or younger adults

Nick M Kitchen, R Chris Miall

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Healthy ageing involves degeneration of the neuromuscular system which impacts movement control and proprioception. Yet the relationship between these sensory and motor deficits in upper limb reaching has not been examined in detail. Recently, we reported that age-related proprioceptive deficits were unrelated to accuracy in rapid arm movements, but whether this applied in motor tasks more heavily dependent on proprioceptive feedback was not clear. To address this, we have tested groups of younger and older adults on a force-field adaptation task under either full or limited visual feedback conditions and examined how performance was related to dynamic proprioceptive acuity. Adaptive performance was similar between the age groups, regardless of visual feedback condition, although older adults showed increased after-effects. Physically inactive individuals made larger systematic (but not variable) proprioceptive errors, irrespective of age. However, dynamic proprioceptive acuity was unrelated to adaptation and there was no consistent evidence of proprioceptive recalibration with adaptation to the force-field for any group. Finally, in spite of clear age-dependent loss of spatial working memory capacity, we found no relationship between memory capacity and adaptive performance or proprioceptive acuity. Thus, non-clinical levels of deficit in dynamic proprioception, due to age or physical inactivity, do not affect force-field adaptation, even under conditions of limited visual feedback that might require greater proprioceptive control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-574
Number of pages18
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
Early online date14 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • Ageing
  • Force-field adaptation
  • Proprioception
  • Reaching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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