Older adults exhibit altered activation of the agonist and antagonist muscles during goal-directed movements compared with young adults. However, it remains unclear whether the differential activation of the antagonistic muscles in older adults results from an impaired motor plan or an altered ability of the muscle to contract. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to determine whether the motor plan differs for young and older adults. Ten young (26.1 ± 4.3 yr, 4 women) and 16 older adults (71.9 ± 6.9 yr, 9 women) participated in the study. Participants performed 100 trials of fast goal directed movements with ankle dorsiflexion while we recorded the electromyographic activity of the primary agonist (tibialis anterior; TA) and antagonist (soleus; SOL) muscles. From those 100 trials we selected 5 trials in each of 3 movement end-point categories (fast, accurate, and slow). We investigated age-associated differences in the motor plan by quantifying the individual activity and coordination of the agonist and antagonist muscles. During similar movement end points, older adults exhibited similar activation of the agonist (TA) and antagonist (SOL) muscles compared with young adults. In addition, the coordination of the agonist and antagonist muscles (TA and SOL) was different between the two age groups. Specifically, older adults exhibited lower TA-SOL overlap (F1,23 = 41.2, P < 0.001) and greater TA-SOL peak EMG delay (F1,25 = 35.5, P < 0.001). This finding suggests that although subjects in both age groups displayed similar movement end points, they exhibited a different motor plan, as demonstrated by altered coordination between the agonist and antagonist muscles.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY We aimed to determine whether the altered activation of muscles in older adults compared with young adults during fast goal-directed movements is related to an altered motor plan. For matched movements, there were differences in the coordination of antagonistic muscles but no differences in the individual activation of muscles. We provide novel evidence that the differential activation of muscles in older adults is related to an altered motor plan.
- goal-directed movements
- motor plan
- neural control of movement
- Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society
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