Age-specific effects of mirror-muscle activity on cross-limb adaptations under mirror and non-mirror visual feedback conditions
Reissig, P and Stockel, T and Garry, MI and Summers, JJ and Hinder, MR, Age-specific effects of mirror-muscle activity on cross-limb adaptations under mirror and non-mirror visual feedback conditions, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 7 Article 222. ISSN 1663-4365 (2015) [Refereed Article]
Cross-limb transfer (CLT) describes the observation of bilateral performance gains due to unilateral motor practice. Previous research has suggested that CLT may be reduced, or absent, in older adults, possibly due to age-related structural and functional brain changes. Based on research showing increases in CLT due to the provision of mirror visual feedback (MVF) during task execution in young adults, our study aimed to investigate whether MVF can facilitate CLT in older adults, who are known to be more reliant on visual feedback for accurate motor performance. Participants (N = 53) engaged in a short-term training regime (300 movements) involving a ballistic finger task using their dominant hand, while being provided with either visual feedback of their active limb, or a mirror reflection of their active limb (superimposed over the quiescent limb). Performance in both limbs was examined before, during and following the unilateral training. Furthermore, we measured corticospinal excitability (using TMS) at these time points, and assessed muscle activity bilaterally during the task via EMG; these parameters were used to investigate the mechanisms mediating and predicting CLT. Training resulted in significant bilateral performance gains that did not differ as a result of age or visual feedback (both p > 0.1). Training also elicited bilateral increases in corticospinal excitability (p < 0.05). For younger adults, CLT was significantly predicted by performance gains in the trained hand (β = 0.47), whereas for older adults it was significantly predicted by mirror activity in the untrained hand during training (β = 0.60). The present study suggests that older adults are capable of exhibiting CLT to a similar degree to younger adults. The prominent role of mirror activity in the untrained hand for CLT in older adults indicates that bilateral cortical activity during unilateral motor tasks is a compensatory mechanism. In this particular task, MVF did not facilitate the extent of CLT.
cross-limb transfer, ageing, mirror therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, unilateral ballistic movement task, ageing, motor learning, cross-limb transfer, visual feedback, mirror-illusion