Winnie Dunn, James W. Griffith, Dory Sabata, Mary T. Morrison, Joy C. MacDermid, Amy Darragh, Roseann Schaaf, Brian Dudgeon, Lisa Tabor Connor, Leeanne Carey, Jennifer Tanquary; Measuring Change in Somatosensation Across the Lifespan. Am J Occup Ther 2015;69(3):6903290020. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.014845
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
OBJECTIVE. The study aim was to determine natural variability in somatosensation across age groups using brief measures. We validated measures in a community-dwelling population as part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Toolbox for Assessment of Neurological and Behavioral Function (NIH Toolbox; http://www.nihtoolbox.org).
METHOD. Participants included community-dwelling children and adults (N = 367, ages 3–85 yr) across seven sites. We tested haptic recognition, touch detection–discrimination, and proprioception using brief affordable measures as required by the NIH Toolbox.
RESULTS. Accuracy improved from young children to young adults; from young to older adults, the pattern reversed slightly. We found significant differences between adults and older adults. One proprioception test (kinesthesia; p =.003) showed gender differences (females more accurate). We provide expected score ranges for age groups as a basis for understanding age-related expectations for somatosensory perception.
CONCLUSION. The age-related patterns of somatosensory perception from this study refine decision making about performance.
The NIH Toolbox tests may be useful for occupational therapy practitioners interested in evaluating somatosensory perception.
Touch perception varies across age bands; clinicians and researchers must consider age-related expected patterns of performance.
In general, touch perception is highest in young adults and adults and is lower in young children and older adults.
Touch perception is variable in young children (3–6 yr old); additional assessment of the impact of sensory perception on functional behavior is needed to determine whether there are somatosensory perception problems for children in this age range.
The Brief MFP Test may be best suited to children older than age 10.
The data from this study can be used to make age-related decisions about performance of people in vulnerable populations (e.g., those with diabetes, stroke).
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