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How does the brain change with age? Part #4: Motor learning experiment

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Published on Jul 23, 2013

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Out physical abilities as well as our mental skills also decline as we age. But, like cognitive skills such as language which remain relatively unaffected compared to memory, not all the body's abilities change for the worse in the same way, or at the same rate.

Scientists on the Cam-CAN project are actively looking at motor skills, and how they are related to touch and co-ordination. Researchers are interested in the way they change over time, partly because of motor problems in older life such as falls. However, game-like tests could also provide cheap and non-invasive ways to measure the impact of age on the brain instead of expensive brain-imaging, or invasive urine or blood sampling. (And of course, games are fun and almost certainly have their own role to play in combating age-related cognitive decline.)

The task (shown in the video above) where people use a pen to move a dot forwards on screen, is testing what is referred to as 'motor learning' -- a type of memory about how to do something new. After participants have practiced the task, and are performing well, the computer starts to move the dot in an unexpected way - shifting it to the left by 30 degrees.

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