Effects of task and age on the magnitude and structure of force fluctuations: Insights into underlying neuro-behavioral processes

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Background: The present study aimed at characterizing the effects of increasing (relative) force level and aging on isometric force control. To achieve this objective and to infer changes in the underlying control mechanisms, measures of information transmission, as well as magnitude and time-frequency structure of behavioral variability were applied to force-time-series. Results: Older adults were found to be weaker, more variable, and less efficient than young participants. As a function of force level, efficiency followed an inverted-U shape in both groups, suggesting a similar organization of the force control system. The time-frequency structure of force output fluctuations was only significantly affected by task conditions. Specifically, a narrower spectral distribution with more long-range correlations and an inverted-U pattern of complexity changes were observed with increasing force level. Although not significant older participants displayed on average a less complex behavior for low and intermediate force levels. The changes in force signal's regularity presented a strong dependence on time-scales, which significantly interacted with age and condition. An inverted-U profile was only observed for the time-scale relevant to the sensorimotor control process. However, in both groups the peak was not aligned with the optimum of efficiency. Conclusion: Our results support the view that behavioral variability, in terms of magnitude and structure, has a functional meaning and affords non-invasive markers of the adaptations of the sensorimotor control system to various constraints. The measures of efficiency and variability ought to be considered as complementary since they convey specific information on the organization of control processes. The reported weak age effect on variability and complexity measures suggests that the behavioral expression of the loss of complexity hypothesis is not as straightforward as conventionally admitted. However, group differences did not completely vanish, which suggests that age differences can be more or less apparent depending on task properties and whether difficulty is scaled in relative or absolute terms.




Vieluf, S., Temprado, J. J., Berton, E., Jirsa, V. K., & Sleimen-Malkoun, R. (2015). Effects of task and age on the magnitude and structure of force fluctuations: Insights into underlying neuro-behavioral processes. BMC Neuroscience, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12868-015-0153-7

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