[*] Cortical Plasticity and Fine Motor Skills in Older Adults.
Monday, 1 January 2007
Even in healthy individuals, the ageing process is usually associated with a progressive reduction in the performance of various motor skills, such as writing, placing keys in keyholes and fastening buttons. These deficits in manual performance may be due to an age-related decline in the ability of the brain to modify its connections (plasticity) when learning new motor skills. This brain plasticity is a fundamental property of the nervous system, where it is critical for learning and memory, but is also important for recovery from brain injury. The goal of the proposed studies is to examine the extent of brain plasticity when performing fine motor skills in older adults, and relate this to motor performance and learning in the elderly. We will use three complementary approaches that will employ novel techniques of magnetic brain stimulation to achieve this goal. These studies will be the first to ascertain a link between deficits in brain plasticity and impaired manual performance in older adults. Furthermore, these studies will be the first to examine interventions designed to promote brain plasticity and motor performance in older adults. Because the majority of patients requiring neurological rehabilitation are in an older age group, it is important to understand the extent of brain plasticity in the elderly. This new information may ultimately lead to innovative therapeutic or rehabilitation strategies to retain or improve fine motor skills in the elderly and promote functional recovery from brain injury. [View