Examining motor learning in older adults using analogy instruction

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Objective:Previous studies have reported that analogy promotes stable motor performance under cognitively demanding situations such as stress and fatigue. However, it is unclear whether analogy is useful for motor learning among older adults, or whether the benefits of motor learning by analogy can be generalized to older adults. The present study examined these questions.Methods and design:Groups of young and older table tennis novices learnt to perform a forehand topspin stroke in table tennis, receiving either analogy instruction or a set of explicit instructions. Afterwards, participants were asked to perform a motor task in three testing situations: dual-task, immediate retention and skill consolidation. Motor performance was assessed using a validated scoring system.Results:Motor performance induced by analogy instruction was comparable to that induced by explicit instruction in both young and older adults. In addition, similar to young adults, the older analogy-instructed participants demonstrated more robust motor performance than their explicitly instructed counterparts in dual-task, immediate retention and skill consolidation testing situations.Conclusions:Analogy instruction aided older adults in acquiring new motor skills, and the benefits of analogy to reduce the cognitive demand of motor learning can be generalized to the older population.HighlightsWe examine the feasibility of analogy instruction in motor learning by older adults.We compare the effectiveness of analogy instruction in motor learning between older adults and young adults.Analogy instruction is effective for motor learning by older adults.Analogy instructed motor skill is more durable than explicitly instructed motor skill in both young and older adults.Fewer working memory resources may be required to process analogy instructions than explicit instructions.

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