Age-related differences in movement control: Adjusting submovement structure to optimize performance

Neff Walker, David A. Philbin, Arthur D. Fisk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

192 Scopus citations


In this experiment older and younger adults were compared on their ability to position a cursor with an electromechanical mouse. Distance of the movement, size of the target, and relative emphasis on the speed or accuracy of the movement were manipulated. The study was designed to isolate and evaluate the effects of age-related differences in the noise-to-force ratio, perceptual feedback efficiency, strategy differences, and the ability to produce force as explanations for age-related differences in movement control. This was done by using two types of movement tasks and by analyzing movement performance according to stages of movement. The study showed that all four factors, when isolated, are significantly different for the two age groups. However, in the task component where all factors could simultaneously affect performance, the age-related difference in performance was less than the difference in either the measure of noise-to-force ratio or perceptual efficiency. Analysis of the submovement structure revealed how older adults compensated for the greater noise and less perceptual efficiency by adjusting the velocity and number of submovements. These findings are discussed in light of the optimized submovement model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)P40-P52
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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