Kavli Affiliate: Reza Shadmehr
| Authors: Erik M. Summerside, Robert J Courter, Reza Shadmehr and Alaa A. Ahmed
As people age, they move slower. Is age-related reduction in vigor a reflection of a reduced valuation of reward by the brain, or a consequence of increased effort costs by the muscles? Here, we quantified cost of movements objectively via the metabolic energy that young and old participants consumed during reaching and found that in order reach at a given speed, older adults expended more energy than the young. We next quantified how reward modulated movements in the same populations and found that like the young, older adults responded to increased reward by initiating their movements earlier. Yet, their movements were less sensitive to increased reward, resulting in little or no modulation of reach speed. Lastly, we quantified the effect of increased effort on how reward modulated movements in young adults. Like the effects of aging, when faced with increased effort the young adults responded to reward primarily by reacting faster, with little change in movement speed. Therefore, reaching required greater energetic expenditure in the elderly, suggesting that the slower movements and reactions exhibited in aging are partly driven by an adaptive response to an elevation in the energetic landscape of effort. That is, moving slower appears to be a rational economic consequence of aging.