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01-09-2011 | Original Article | Uitgave 5/2011 Open Access

Psychological Research 5/2011

Motor skill learning in the middle-aged: limited development of motor chunks and explicit sequence knowledge

Psychological Research > Uitgave 5/2011
Willem B. Verwey, Elger L. Abrahamse, Marit F. L. Ruitenberg, Luis Jiménez, Elian de Kleine


The present study examined whether middle-aged participants, like young adults, learn movement patterns by preparing and executing integrated sequence representations (i.e., motor chunks) that eliminate the need for external guidance of individual movements. Twenty-four middle-aged participants (aged 55–62) practiced two fixed key press sequences, one including three and one including six key presses in the discrete sequence production task. Their performance was compared with that of 24 young adults (aged 18–28). In the middle-aged participants motor chunks as well as explicit sequence knowledge appeared to be less developed than in the young adults. This held especially with respect to the unstructured 6-key sequences in which most middle-aged did not develop independence of the key-specific stimuli and learning seems to have been based on associative learning. These results are in line with the notion that sequence learning involves several mechanisms and that aging affects the relative contribution of these mechanisms.

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