1137 GMT September 20, 2017
In an article published in Scientific Reports, the researcher shows that an infant's exploration-exploitation process can work in older adults, as well, medicalxpress.com reported.
Dr. Shelly Levy-Tzedek, a lecturer in the BGU Department of Physiotherapy, Leon and Matilda Recanati School for Community Health Professions, said, "In early development, babies seem to make random movements in all directions until they learn to purposefully reach for objects.
“Their movements are variable until they find a solution for the problem at hand, like reaching for that Cheerios bit. When they find a good movement plan, they exploit it."
In the study, the arms of older adults were connected to a sensor that measures the rotation of the arm at the elbow.
Participants were then asked to make rhythmic movements of the forearm in a ‘windshield wiper’ motion while trying to maintain certain speeds and arm amplitude, with and without visual feedback.
Dr. Levy-Tzedek, who is also head of BGU's Cognition, Aging and Rehabilitation Lab and a member of the University's ABC Robotics Initiative, said, “At first their movements were too slow and too small.
“We then encouraged them to make movements that were larger and faster, and their performance on the original task improved significantly."
The researchers hypothesized that older participants would not be able to maintain an increase in speed and amplitude of movement over time due to fatigue, but were surprised to discover that making mistakes helped improve future task performance.
They also found that once a better movement pattern was established, the variability dropped. Making exaggerated movements actually helped them fine-tune their control.
Levy-Tzedek said, "We haven't tested it directly in physical therapy, but perhaps getting older adults to make exaggerated movements can help fine-tune their performance on specific tasks that they find difficult to accomplish otherwise.”