You may not think much about your hand-eye coordination unless you begin having problems with it. Difficulties with hand-eye coordination can emerge for a variety of reasons. One of the most common reasons is age.
Keep reading to learn more about hand-eye coordination and some the causes behind a decline in this function.
Hand eye coordination and aging: What’s the connection?
As you age, your ability to perform tasks with the same amount of accuracy and speed as when you were younger declines. This includes reaction time and dexterity, two important elements of hand-eye coordination.
One older study explored this decline by looking at two groups of people, one with people 20-36 years old, and the other with people 67-87 years old. Participants in each group were asked to point to a target 100 times. After comparing the two groups, the researchers concluded that perceptual motor skills decline as a person ages.
In a 2014 study, researchers found a relationship between older age and a decline in fine motor skills. In an older study published in 2000, an age-related decline was also seen in perceptual motor skills. In a review of recent studies, researchers found that age-related changes in the structure, function, and biochemistry of the brain affect motor skills. That can account for the decline in hand-eye coordination seen in people as they age.
Why does hand-eye coordination decline?
Age-related changes are caused by the loss of function to multiple areas of the brain. As we age, the neuromuscular communication in our body isn’t as strong as it was earlier in life. A recent study found evidence that age-related changes in visual perception may also affect hand-eye coordination. The study showed that younger people interpret and react to near-body space in a fundamentally different way than older adults.
Age isn’t the only thing that can cause a decline in hand-eye coordination, however. Many neurological disorders can impact this function. Some of these disorders are more likely to emerge with age. Others are determined by genetic factors or physical injury.
Movements, including those in the hand, require communication from the brain. If those pathways are compromised, as they can be in people with nerve damage or disorders such as multiple sclerosis and ataxia, hand dexterity and responsiveness will decline.
What to expect at your doctor’s visit
Your doctor will begin by asking you about your medical history and doing a physical exam. This will help them rule out or identify potential causes for the problem.
Your doctor will ask about when you first noticed changes with your hand-eye coordination. They’ll likely inquire about other possible symptoms such as dizziness, limb numbness, and changes to your memory. They may also ask if you’ve had issues with headaches, seizures, or slurred speech, which could indicate a neurological issue.
Next, your doctor will likely do neurological tests and may even order an MRI. One example of a neurological test is to have you follow an object with your eyes. This can test the communication between your brain and eyes. Another example is having you touch your nose with your index finger.
Improving hand-eye coordination
Activities to try
- Swimming is a low-impact activity that may help hand-eye coordination. It can also keep you in shape and may improve your balance.
- Tai Chi combines meditative stretching and balance exercises. It may improve your hand-eye coordination.
- Catch and juggle balls. Practicing your hand-eye coordination with these activities can help keep this skill intact.
- Regularly visit your eye doctor to maintain your eye health.
There are things you can do to improve your hand-eye coordination.
Exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on hand-eye coordination. Aerobic exercise may even increase brain volume, which can help improve hand-eye coordination. A 2010 study showed that regular swimming, in particular, may help with this skill. Swimming is a low-impact exercise, and the repetitive movements may also help with balance.
Another method that may help hand-eye coordination is Tai Chi, a Chinese practice that involves meditative stretching and balance exercises. In a three-month study, Tai Chi was found to improve hand-eye coordination by 20 percent when compared to a control group that did not practice Tai Chi.
A childhood classic may also help with hand-eye coordination. Both playing catch and juggling offer opportunities to focus on this skill. Try tossing a ball in the air and catching it, or juggling a few balls at once.
You can also talk to you doctor about working with a physical therapist. They may be able to show you some exercises that can improve hand-eye coordination.
Finally, your eyesight could impact your hand-eye coordination. Get your eyes checked once a year. Not only can your doctor help provide corrective lenses if your vision has declined, they can also check to make sure you don’t have an eye condition that could affect your vision.
What’s the outlook?
Everyone experiences changes to their body as they age. That includes neurological changes. Let your doctor know as soon as you start to see a decline in your hand-eye coordination. If it’s caused by a neurological condition, your doctor can start you on a treatment plan. If the decline is due to the effects of aging, your doctor can recommend exercises that may improve your hand-eye coordination.