A positive association between active lifestyle and hemispheric lateralization for motor control and learning in older adults

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Abstract

Physical activity (PA) is well known to have general health benefits for older adults, but it is unclear whether it can also positively affect brain function involved in motor control and learning. We have previously shown that interlimb transfer of visuomotor adaptation occurs asymmetrically in young adults, while that occurs symmetrically in older adults, which suggests that the lateralized function of each hemisphere during motor tasks is diminished with aging. Here, we investigated the association between the level of PA and hemispheric motor lateralization by comparing the pattern of interlimb transfer following visuomotor adaptation between physically active and inactive older adults. Subjects were divided into two groups based on their PA level (active, inactive). They were further divided into two groups, such that a half of the subjects in each group adapted to a 30° rotation during targeted reaching movements with the left arm first, then with the right arm; and the other half with the right arm first, then with the left arm. Results indicated asymmetrical transfer (from left to right only) in the active subjects, whereas symmetrical transfer (from left to right, and vice versa) was observed in the inactive subjects. These findings suggest that older adults who maintain active lifestyle have a central nervous system that is more intact in terms of its lateralized motor function as compared with those who are inactive.

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