Purpose: The maximum isometric force production capacity of the fingers decreases with age. However, little information is available on age-related changes in dynamic motor capacity of individual fingers. The purpose of this study was to compare the dynamic motor function of individual fingers between elderly and young adults using rapid single-finger and double-finger tapping.
Methods: Fourteen elderly and 14 young adults performed maximum frequency tapping by the index, middle, ring, or little finger (single-finger tapping) and with alternate movements of the index-middle, middle-ring, or ring-little finger-pair (double-finger tapping). The maximum pinch force between the thumb and each finger, tactile sensitivity of each fingertip, and time taken to complete a pegboard test were also measured.
Results: Compared with young subjects, the older subjects had significantly slower tapping rates in all fingers and finger-pairs in the tapping tasks. The age-related decline was also observed in the tactile sensitivities of all fingers and in the pegboard test. However, there was no group difference in the pinch force of any finger. The tapping rate of each finger did not correlate with the pinch force or tactile sensitivity for the corresponding finger in the elderly subjects.
Conclusions: Maximum rate of finger tapping was lower in the elderly adults compared with the young adults. The decline of finger tapping ability in elderly adults seems to be less affected by their maximum force production capacities of the fingers as well as tactile sensitivities at the tips of the fingers.