Aging effects on electrical and hemodynamic responses in the sensorimotor network during unilateral proximal upper limb functional tasks


Healthy aging leads to poorer performance in upper limb (UL) daily living movements. Understanding the neural correlates linked with UL functional movements may help to better understand how healthy aging affects motor control. Two non-invasive neuroimaging methods allow for monitoring the movement-related brain activity: functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and electroencephalography (EEG), respectively based on the hemodynamic response and electrical activity of brain regions. Coupled, they provide a better spatiotemporal mapping. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of healthy aging on the bilateral sensorimotor (SM1) activation patterns of functional proximal UL movements. Twenty-one young and 21 old healthy participants realized two unilateral proximal UL movements during: i) a paced reaching target task and ii) a circular steering task to capture the speed-accuracy trade-off. Combined fNIRS-EEG system was synchronised with movement capture system to record SM1 activation while moving. The circular steering task performance was significantly lower for the older group. The rate of increase in hemodynamic response was longer in the older group with no difference on the amplitude of fNIRS signal for the two tasks. The EEG results showed aging related reduction of the alpha-beta rhythms synchronisation but no desynchronisation modification. In conclusion, this study uncovers the age-related changes in brain electrical and hemodynamic response patterns in the bilateral sensorimotor network during two functional proximal UL movements using two complementary neuroimaging methods. This opens up the possibility to utilise combined fNIRS-EEG for monitoring the movement-related neuroplasticity in clinical practice.

Behavioural Brain Research