The control of voluntary movement changes markedly with age. A critical component of motor control is the integration of sensory information with predictions of the consequences of action, arising from internal models of movement. This leads to sensorimotor attenuation—a reduction in the perceived intensity of sensations from self-generated compared with external actions. Here we show that sensorimotor attenuation occurs in 98% of adults in a population-based cohort ( n=325; 18–88 years; the Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience). Importantly, attenuation increases with age, in proportion to reduced sensory sensitivity. This effect is associated with differences in the structure and functional connectivity of the pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA), assessed with magnetic resonance imaging. The results suggest that ageing alters the balance between the sensorium and predictive models, mediated by the pre-SMA and its connectivity in frontostriatal circuits. This shift may contribute to the motor and cognitive changes observed with age.
Decline in sensorimotor skills with age may be due to an overreliance on the prediction of the sensory consequences of one's actions. Here the authors show that sensorimotor attenuation increases with age, and that this is associated with structural and functional changes in frontostriatal circuits.