Using speech sounds to enhance occupational performance in young and older adults

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Functional independence in daily life depends largely on performing daily occupations smoothly and efficiently. Thus, intervention is needed as the quality of daily occupational performance declines with age in older adults. Recent experimental studies indicate an interactive relationship between speech and upper extremity motor control. These studies led to the suggestion that speech sounds or vocalization might be used to enhance motor performance. The present study compared the effect of vocalization on a daily motor performance in young and older adults. It included 13 young (mean 22.5 years) and 13 older adults (mean 75.5 years) with no known neurological impairments who performed the task of reaching for a cup and placing it on a shelf during four randomly chosen conditions: no vocalization, synchronized self-vocalization, external (experimenter) vocalization, and imagery vocalization. Arm and jaw movements were recorded using a search coil system. Kinematic data were analyzed using a two-way mixed design analysis of variance (ANOVA) with post hoc contrast analysis. Older adults were consistently slower than young participants for all test conditions (p <.001). Movements in both young and older adults made with either self-vocalization or external vocalization were significantly faster and smoother than movements made without vocalization or using imagery vocalization (p <.001). Vocalization effects on movement performance were significantly more pronounced in older adults than in younger participants (p <.001). The results suggest that vocalization improves motor performance of the daily living task studied, and the study design has clinical potential that may be used for facilitating task-related motor performance in older adults.

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OTJR Occupation, Participation and Health

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