Using a cross sectional design, we aimed to identify the effect of aging on sensorimotor function and cortical motor representations of two intrinsic hand muscles, as well as the course and timing of those changes. Furthermore, the link between cortical motor representations, sensorimotor function, and intracortical inhibition and facilitation was investigated. Seventy-seven participants over the full adult lifespan were enrolled. For the first dorsal interosseus (FDI) and abductor digiti minimi (ADM) muscle, cortical motor representations, GABA-mediated short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI), and glutamate-mediated intracortical facilitation (ICF) were assessed using transcranial magnetic stimulation over the dominant primary motor cortex. Additionally, participants’ dexterity and force were measured. Linear, polynomial, and piecewise linear regression analyses were conducted to identify the course and timing of age-related differences. Our results demonstrated variation in sensorimotor function over the lifespan, with a marked decline starting around the mid-thirties. Furthermore, an age-related reduction in cortical motor representation volume and maximal MEP of the FDI, but not for ADM, was observed, occurring mainly until the mid-forties. Area of the cortical motor representation did not change with advancing age. Furthermore, cortical motor representations, sensorimotor function, and measures of intracortical inhibition and facilitation were not interrelated.
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