Donders Discussions 2013 location:Nijmegen, The Netherlands date:31 Oct - 1 Nov 2013
The deterioration of motor performance that comes with aging has been shown to be correlated with functional and structural changes in the brain. Shrinkage of gray matter, disruption of white matter integrity, loss of corticospinal and spinal cord motor neurons and neurochemical modifications are some of the factors that are correlated to behavioral slowing. Interlimb coordination is affected by these factors however the underlying mechanisms that explain a successful coordination in young healthy subjects have not been elucidated yet, let alone in aging or in pathological conditions.
The activity of the whole brain measured with fMRI and EEG in combination with behavioral paradigms is useful to study complex motor tasks, in particular bimanual coordination. FMRI studies have shown involvement of a broad network of brain regions including the motor cortex, premotor cortex, supplementary motor area, cingulate motor area, basal ganglia, cerebellum and corpus callosum. In the Research Group on Movement Control and Neuroplasticity (KU Leuven), we have focused on study of age-related alterations in brain structure, function, and connectivity as a result of intensive bimanual training. In the execution of a bimanual multirhythmic task, older adults showed increased bilateral activity in the lateral prefrontal and parietal areas compared to young adults, indicating recruitment of more areas while the performance did not match young adults’. In order to assess the dynamic changes at a higher temporal resolution, we are working on using EEG to study the neural correlates and age-related differences of learning a complex bimanual coordination mode. For the first time, the learning effects on the electrical activity of the brain will be studied during a 2-dimensional bimanual task that resembles circle drawing, being this a more ecological movement than flexion/extension movements.