Clumsiness in Some Elderly Tied to Brain Changes

By  , everydayHealth
Jun 11, 2013

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A new study suggested that certain brain changes make many elderly people clumsier as time goes by. We have heard about various age-related issues related to vision, agility and other physical abilities that can lead to an increase in problems, such as knocking over a glass, while reaching for the salt shaker. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have stated that increased clumsiness is may be due to changes in the mental frame of reference that older people use to visualize nearby objects, say researchers at Washington University in St. Louis.

Study co-author Richard Abrams, a professor of psychology in arts and sciences, said in a university news release that in humans, reference frames help in determining the things that are around us and pay attention. These frames can affect how we interact with objects, such as controls for a car or dishes on a table. He explained that this recent study has tried to show 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.

To conduct this study, young and older adults were given a series of simple tasks involving hand movement. It has been observed that the young adults used an "action-centered" reference frame when picking up an object, which means that they remained aware of and sensitive to potential obstacles along their hand's path of movement. Whereas the older adults used a "body-centered" reference frame, which shows that they devoted more attention to objects that were closer to their bodies. The older adults were also unable to adjust their hand movements to avoid obstacles, the researchers said.

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