How do age and nature of the motor task influence visuomotor adaptation?

Samuel T. Nemanich, Gammon M. Earhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Visuomotor adaptation with prism glasses is a paradigm often used to understand how the motor system responds to visual perturbations. Both reaching and walking adaptation have been documented, but not directly compared. Because the sensorimotor environment and demands are different between reaching and walking, we hypothesized that characteristics of prism adaptation, namely rates and aftereffects, would be different during walking compared to reaching. Furthermore, we aimed to determine the impact of age on motor adaptation. We studied healthy younger and older adults who performed visually guided reaching and walking tasks with and without prism glasses. We noted age effects on visuomotor adaptation, such that older adults adapted and re-adapted slower compared to younger adults, in accord with previous studies of adaptation in older adults. Interestingly, we also noted that both groups adapted slower and showed smaller aftereffects during walking prism adaptation compared to reaching. We propose that walking adaptation is slower because of the complex multi-effector and multi-sensory demands associated with walking. Altogether, these data suggest that humans can adapt various movement types but the rate and extent of adaptation is not the same across movement types nor across ages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)564-568
Number of pages5
JournalGait and Posture
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2015


  • Aftereffects
  • Aging
  • Gait adaptation
  • Prisms
  • Visuomotor adaptation


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