Critical decline in fine motor hand movements in human aging

C. D. Smith, G. H. Umberger, E. L. Manning, J. T. Slevin, D. R. Wekstein, F. A. Schmitt, W. R. Markesbery, Z. Zhang, G. A. Gerhardt, R. J. Kryscio, D. M. Gash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

197 Scopus citations


Background: Slowing of motor movements in human aging is a well-known occurrence, but its biologic basis is poorly understood. Reliable quantitation may refine observations of this phenomenon to better aid research on this entity. Methods: A panel equipped with timing sensors under computer control was used to measure upper extremity movement times in two groups of healthy individuals: adults younger than 60 years of age (n = 56; range, 18-58 years) and adults older than 60 years of age (n = 38; range, 61- 94 years). Results: Fine motor performance was better in the dominant hand (p = 0.0007) regardless of age. Adult and aged groups differed on two basic timing measures, which reflect coarse motor and fine motor performance (p < 0.0001). There were no gender differences on either measure. There was a strong effect of task difficulty with age on coarse motor (p < 0.01) and fine motor (p < 0.0001) measures. The fine motor measure of hand performance in healthy individuals correlated in a nonlinear fashion with age for more difficult tasks (r2 = 0.63) but showed a simple linear relation for less- demanding tasks (r2 = 0.5). Conclusion: This technique sensitively detects age-related motor performance decline in humans. There may be a critical period in late midlife when fine motor performance decline either begins or abruptly worsens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1458-1461
Number of pages4
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 22 1999


  • Aging
  • Human
  • Movement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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