Journal Article

The ‘why’ of reaching: second-order planning across the adult lifespan


Second-order planning, planning which takes into account imminent and subsequent task demands, has been shown to be essential during everyday movement. For example, the kinematics of a ‘reach to an object’ action have been shown to be linked to the intended goal for the object (the prior intention). However, it is unclear whether this type of second-order planning for prior intention is preserved during aging, or indeed how this differs across the adult lifespan. Kinematics of a reach action preceding four prior intentions, place in a ‘tight’ hole, place in a ‘loose’ hole, throw or lift were measured in 122 aged from 20-81 years. The kinematics of the reach movement demonstrated that all participants tailored their reach movement to the prior intention, with the deceleration period of the reach discriminating across groups. The 20s and 30s group showed a different deceleration period during the reach for tight versus loose place prior intentions, this was not seen after 39 years of age and the 70+ group showed no discrimination across the deceleration period for the four prior intentions. When considering movement efficiency of the place actions we found it could be predicted by age and that this relationship was mediated by discrimination across the deceleration period. This study demonstrates that a clear difference is seen in the way in which second-order planning is used across the lifespan and that this has implications for movement efficiency.

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Wilmut, Kate
Wang, Shan

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences\Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development


Year of publication: 2019
Date of RADAR deposit: 2019-01-21

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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