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Optimizing Motor Function

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A conspicuous human characteristic is the ability to adapt to internal changes brought about by neurobiological processes of maturation, senescence and pathology, and to changes in environmental factors. The ability to adapt is not confined to young age because research shows that old adults, albeit to a more limited extent, retain biological flexibility. Our research shows that changes in our physical abilities due to ageing and contextual learning experience shape the development of adaptive motor behaviour across the lifespan. Because the oldest old segment of the population is growing at an accelerated rate, there is an increasing number of old adults with age-related diseases. Thus, more people live longer and there is an urgent need to better understand the extent of adaptive flexibility in humans. Although much progress has been made, exercise therapy of patients with age-related neurological (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease) and orthopedic conditions (osteoarthritis) is still suboptimal. Our research, in collaboration with the Departments of Rehabilitation, Psychology, and Medical Physiology thus focuses on the role of exercise and (re-)training of motor skills to optimize daily physical function and increase independence.s