Aging does not affect generalized postural motor learning in response to variable amplitude oscillations of the support surface

Karen Van Ooteghem, James S. Frank, Fran Allard, Fay B. Horak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Postural motor learning for dynamic balance tasks has been demonstrated in healthy older adults (Van Ooteghem et al. in Exp Brain Res 199(2):185-193, 2009). The purpose of this study was to investigate the type of knowledge (general or specific) obtained with balance training in this age group and to examine whether embedding perturbation regularities within a balance task masks specific learning. Two groups of older adults maintained balance on a translating platform that oscillated with variable amplitude and constant frequency. One group was trained using an embedded-sequence (ES) protocol which contained the same 15-s sequence of variable amplitude oscillations in the middle of each trial. A second group was trained using a looped-sequence (LS) protocol which contained a 15-s sequence repeated three times to form each trial. All trials were 45 s. Participants were not informed of any repetition. To examine learning, participants performed a retention test following a 24-h delay. LS participants also completed a transfer task. Specificity of learning was examined by comparing performance for repeated versus random sequences (ES) and training versus transfer sequences (LS). Performance was measured by deriving spatial and temporal measures of whole body center of mass (COM) and trunk orientation. Both groups improved performance with practice as characterized by reduced COM displacement, improved COM-platform phase relationships, and decreased angular trunk motion. Furthermore, improvements reflected general rather than specific postural motor learning regardless of training protocol (ES or LS). This finding is similar to young adults (Van Ooteghem et al. in Exp Brain Res 187(4):603-611, 2008) and indicates that age does not influence the type of learning which occurs for balance control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-514
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Aging
  • Balance control
  • Continuous perturbation
  • Learning
  • Platform translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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