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Selective motor inhibition is known to decline with age. The purpose of this study was to determine the frequency of failures at inhibitory control of adjacent finger movements while performing a repetitive finger tapping task in young, middle-aged and older adults. Potential education and sex effects were also evaluated.
Kinematic recordings of adjacent finger movements were obtained on 107 healthy adults (ages 20–80) while they performed a modified version of the Halstead Finger Tapping Test (HTFF). Study participants were instructed to inhibit all finger movements while tapping with the index finger.
Inability to inhibit adjacent finger movements while performing the task was infrequent in young adults (2.9% of individuals between 20 and 39 years of age) but increased with age (23.3% between the ages of 40 and 59; 31.0% between ages 60 and 80). Females and males did not differ in their inability to inhibit adjacent finger movements, but individuals with a college education showed a lower frequency of failure to inhibit adjacent finger movements (10.3%) compared to those with a high school education (28.6%). These findings were statistically significant only for the dominant hand.
Selective motor inhibition failures are most common in the dominant hand and occur primarily in older healthy adults while performing the modified version of the HFTT. Monitoring selective motor inhibition failures may have diagnostic significance.
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