How does ageing affect grasp adaptation to a visual–haptic size conflict?

Samuel Couth, Emma Gowen, Ellen Poliakoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research suggests that the ability to adapt motor behaviour to sudden environmental changes may be impaired in older adults. Here, we investigated whether the adaptation of grasping behaviour in response to a visual–haptic size conflict is also affected by increasing age. 30 older and 18 young adults were instructed to grasp a hidden block whilst viewing a second block in a congruent position. Initially block sizes were equal, but after a set number of trials a sensory conflict was introduced by covertly changing the hidden block for a smaller or larger block. The scale and speed of maximum grasp aperture adaptation to the increase or decrease in the size of the hidden block was measured. Older adults successfully adapted to the visual–haptic size conflict in a similar manner to young adults, despite a tendency to adapt less when the hidden block increased in size. This finding is attributed to the physical capabilities of the grasping hand of older adults, rather than an effect of age-related sensory or cognitive decline. The speed of grasp adaptation did not differ between age groups; however, awareness of the visual–haptic conflict lead to faster adaptation. These findings suggest that sensorimotor adaptation for grasping is intact for cognitively healthy older adults.
Original languageEnglish
JournalExperimental brain research
Early online date23 May 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 May 2018


  • Ageing
  • Grasp adaptation
  • Haptics
  • Motor control


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