Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences

Advisor 1

Kevin M. Trewartha

Committee Member 1

Shane T. Mueller

Committee Member 2

Florian Kagerer


Changes in motor behavior may function as a proxy for cognitive decline. While Alzheimer's disease (AD) is associated with impairments in learning and memory, recent studies suggest that subtle changes in motor task performance may reflect early cognitive changes. For example, the visuomotor rotation task that manipulates visual feedback about hand position during reaching movements, can be used to examine cognitive changes in aging populations. The current study used the reverse visually guided reaching task (rVGR) which rotates visual feedback of participant’s hand position 180⁰ relative to the actual hand position. We sought to expand on previous literature by recruiting cognitively impaired individuals to characterize changes in rVGR performance in early AD. We also examined learning curves to assess the impact of cognitive impairment on learning in the rVGR task and probed the cognitive correlates of rVGR performance with a neuropsychological battery. We recruited young adults, and older adults (55 – 85 years old) with and without cognitive impairment to complete a VGR task with veridical mapping, and then the rVGR task. Overall, cognitively impaired adults exhibited longer reaction times and performed more corrective movements. Age differences were observed for nearly all overall measures of performance. The largest differences between healthy older adults and cognitively impaired adults were identified in the earliest stages of the learning curve. In the first few movements, the cognitively impaired group made more angular errors. Both overall- and early- measures of performance were correlated with measures of cognitive control. These findings add to the growing literature suggesting that sensorimotor adaptation tasks may be sensitive to early cognitive changes in AD.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Included in

Motor Control Commons