Research Paper Volume 13, Issue 12 pp 15942—15963

Cognition and action: a latent variable approach to study contributions of executive functions to motor control in older adults

Caroline Seer1,2, , Justina Sidlauskaite1,2, , Florian Lange3, , Geraldine Rodríguez-Nieto1,2, , Stephan P. Swinnen1,2, ,

  • 1 Movement Control and Neuroplasticity Research Group, Department of Movement Sciences, KU Leuven, Flanders, Belgium
  • 2 KU Leuven Brain Institute (LBI), KU Leuven, Flanders, Belgium
  • 3 Behavioral Engineering Research Group, KU Leuven, Flanders, Belgium

Received: March 19, 2021       Accepted: June 3, 2021       Published: June 24, 2021
How to Cite

Copyright: © 2021 Seer et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Aging is associated with profound alterations in motor control that may be exacerbated by age-related executive functioning decline. Executive functions span multiple facets including inhibition (suppressing unwanted response tendencies), shifting (switching between cognitive operations), and updating (managing working memory content). However, comprehensive studies regarding the contributions of single facets of executive functioning to movement control in older adults are still lacking. A battery of nine neuropsychological tasks was administered to n = 92 older adults in order to derive latent factors for inhibition, shifting, and updating by structural equation modeling. A bimanual task was used to assess complex motor control. A sample of n = 26 young adults served as a control group to verify age-related performance differences. In older adults, structural equation models revealed that performance on the most challenging condition of the complex motor task was best predicted by the updating factor and by general executive functioning performance. These data suggest a central role for working memory updating in complex motor performance and contribute to our understanding of how individual differences in executive functioning relate to movement control in older adults.


AT: antisaccade task; BSI-18: Brief Symptom Inventory, 18-item version; BTT: bimanual tracking task; CAST: category-switch task; common EF: common executive functioning factor; COST: color-shape task; DST: digit-span task; IPAQ: International Physical Activity Questionnaire; KTT: keep track task; MBQ: Modified Baecke Questionnaire; MoCA: Montreal Cognitive Assessment; NLT: number-letter task; NST: number-Stroop task; PPVT-III-NL: Dutch version of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test; RAND-36: Short Form Health Survey; SST: stop-signal task; STT: spatial 2-back task.