Functional performance comparison between real and virtual tasks in older adults: A cross-sectional study

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Ageing is usually accompanied by deterioration of physical abilities, such as muscular strength, sensory sensitivity, and functional capacity, making chronic diseases, and the well-being of older adults new challenges to global public health.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether a task practiced in a virtual environment could promote better performance and enable transfer to the same task in a real environment.


The study evaluated 65 older adults of both genders, aged 60 to 82 years (M = 69.6, SD = 6.3). A timing coincident task was applied to measure the perceptual-motor ability to perform a motor response. The participants were divided into 2 groups: started in a real interface and started in a virtual interface.


All subjects improved their performance during the practice, but improvement was not observed for the real interface, as the participants were near maximum performance from the beginning of the task. However, there was no transfer of performance from the virtual to real environment or vice versa.


The virtual environment was shown to provide improvement of performance with a short-term motor learning protocol in a timing coincident task. This result suggests that the practice of tasks in a virtual environment seems to be a promising tool for the assessment and training of healthy older adults, even though there was no transfer of performance to a real environment.

Trial registration:

ISRCTN02960165. Registered 8 November 2016.

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