Video transcript: How does the brain change with age? Part #4: Motor learning experiment

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July 2013

Sofia Gerbase, Cam-CAN Research Assistant, University of Cambridge
Ok, so for this experiment from the home location use the stylus to move the red dot, which will appear under the nib, across the pad to the yellow target, which will burst when you hit it. Your task is to do this as quickly as possible. During the full experiment you will not be able to view your hand movements through the mirrored panel.

Video shows volunteer using the stylus to move the red dot across the pad to the yellow targets, looking through the mirroreed panel

So that was a practice and then in the real one, what we do is we cover this part so you can't see your hand movements any more.

Video shows Sofia covering part the mirrored panel and then the volunteer carrying out the experiment again

So its harder to be quite as precise as you were in the original.

Sofia Gerbase
Yes so if you keep doing that as quickly as you can you'll notice that at some point it's going to get more difficult, but just try to correct your movement as you go along and try to keep hitting that yellow target.

Deeper beeping sound indicates the yellow target was not hit

Oh no (laughs). So now it's going off in a curve.

Sofia Gerbase
So you'll notice you're starting to adjust your movements so that you hit that target better to compensate for that.

I'm not doing very well at it (laughs).

Video shows pad with the yellow targets being hit

So the idea is that I have to push the red dot to hit the yellow dot and, whilst I'm trying to move the pen straight, the actual dot moves off into a curve so I have got to correct where I have gone to get to the yellow dot. And then it changes which side of the target it is curving away from, so that one is now going quite straight, so that's quite easy to do, but when it was curving I am having to correct and try to predict which way it is going to go round the dot – round that way, or that way. So, yes, what is that measuring?

Sofia Gerbase
So again, motor tasks, so motor flexibility. So how quickly do older people take longer to correct that movement and then younger people, are younger people better at realising quickly what's happened and correcting for that. That's what that is looking at. So the target moves a few degrees to the right and then a few degrees to the left. And you notice that maybe in the first part when it moved you were quite slow at correcting but in the second part when it happened, towards the end of the task, you were a bit quicker at doing that. So both of the tasks are looking at motor reflexes, motor movement, but in different ways. This is motor learning and this is kind of force matching task. Ok?

Yes, very interesting.



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Music 'Shipment' by Alex Arrowsmith from www.cinephonix.com

BBSRC wishes to thank cognition unit staff and Cam-CAN interviewers:

  • Kim Norman (motor learning)
  • Aldabra Stoddart (MRI imaging)
  • Jessica Penrose (MEG imaging)