The influence of age on performance and muscle activity was studied during computer mouse tasks designed to induce high demands on motor control. Eight young (mean age 25 years) and nine elderly (mean age 63 years) women participated. When the speed was self-determined, the elderly subjects performed 13%-18% slower than did the young. When speed was predefined, the error rate was higher in the elderly subjects than in the young ones (medium precision 7.8% compared to 2.5%, high precision 16.5% compared to 7.9%, respectively). The highest error rate was found for double-clicking (32.9% compared to 13.5%, respectively). The reduced performance in the elderly subjects was hypothesised to be a combined effect of deteriorated proprioception, increased motor unit size, and changes in the central nervous system. Electrical activity (EMG) was recorded from the forearm, shoulder and neck muscles. Higher levels of EMG activity were found in the elderly compared to the young. A likely explanation is that the impaired motor control necessitated an increased muscle activity. The highest levels of EMG activity and lack of EMG gaps were found for the forearm extensor muscles, especially the extensor digitorum muscle (mean EMG activity 10.4% compared to 8.1% of maximal electrical activity, EMG(max)) whereas lower EMG activity levels were found for the shoulder region (e.g. right trapezius muscle mean EMG 2.8% compared to 1.1% EMG(max), respectively). The latter was possibly due to a relieving effect of the forearm support. Differences in muscle activity among the tasks were found, however they were minor for the shoulder and neck muscles. Consideration of the demands on motor control when designing user interfaces is recommended, to the benefit of both the young and the elderly.
- motor control
- HUMAN HAND MUSCLE