-- Robert Preidt
MONDAY, June 10 (HealthDay News) -- Certain brain changes may
help explain why many older adults become clumsier as time goes by,
a new study says.
Age-related declines in vision, agility and other physical
abilities can lead to an increase in problems such as knocking over
a glass while reaching for the salt shaker or fumbling while trying
to slide a key into a lock.
But some of the increased clumsiness may be due to changes in
the mental frame of reference that older adults use to visualize
nearby objects, say researchers at Washington University in St.
"Reference frames help determine what in our environment we will pay attention to and they can affect how we interact with objects, such as controls for a car or dishes on a table," study co-author Richard Abrams, a professor of psychology in arts and sciences, said in a university news release.
"Our study shows that in addition to physical and perceptual changes, difficulties in interaction may also be caused by changes in how older adults mentally represent the objects near them," he explained.
The study, recently published in the journal
Psychological Science, included young and older adults who
were given a series of simple tasks involving hand movement. The
young adults used an "action-centered" reference frame when picking
up an object. This means that they remained aware of and sensitive
to potential obstacles along their hand's path of movement.
But older adults used a "body-centered" reference frame, which
means they devoted more attention to objects that were closer to
their bodies, whether or not they were along their hand's path of
movement. As a result, they were less able to adjust their hand
movements to avoid obstacles, the researchers said.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about
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