We investigated age-related changes in adaptation and sensory reintegration in postural control without vision. In two sessions, participants adapted their posture to sway reference and to reverse sway reference conditions, the former reducing (near eliminating) and the latter enhancing (near doubling) proprioceptive information for posture by means of support-surface rotations in proportion to body sway. Participants stood on a stable platform for 3 min (baseline) followed by 18 min of sway reference or reverse sway reference (adaptation) and finally again on a stable platform for 3 min (reintegration). Results showed that when inaccurate proprioception was introduced, anterior-posterior (AP) sway path length increased in comparable levels in the two age groups. During adaptation, young and older adults reduced postural sway at the same rate. On restoration of the stable platform in the reintegration phase, a sizeable aftereffect of increased AP path length was observed in both groups, which was greater in magnitude and duration for older adults. In line with linear feedback models of postural control, spectral analyses showed that this aftereffect differed between the two platform conditions. In the sway-referenced condition, a switch from low- to high-frequency COP sway marked the transition from reduced to normal proprioceptive information. The opposite switch was observed in the reverse sway referenced condition. Our findings illustrate age-related slowing in participants' postural control adjustments to sudden changes in environmental conditions. Over and above differences in postural control, our results implicate sensory reweighting as a specific mechanism highly sensitive to age-related decline.
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