Effects of aging on vibration detection thresholds at various body regions

Publication Type:
Journal Article
BMC Geriatrics, 2003, 3 pp. 1 - 10
Issue Date:
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Background: The ability to detect sinusoidal vibrations on the skin surface is dependent on the activation of two classes of receptors. The density of such receptors varies across the skin surface and is a factor in determining the sensory acuity of each skin area. However, the acuity of many sensory systems is known to deteriorate with advancing age. The aim of this study was to determine if vibrotactile sensibility of several skin surfaces deteriorated equally with advancing age. Methods: Vibration detection thresholds for two frequencies of vibration (30 Hz and 200 Hz) were determined using a method of limits protocol, in two groups of healthy adults, one group aged 17 to 27 years and the other aged 55 to 90 years. Sinusoidal vibrations were generated by a computer and delivered to the skin surface via the probe (diameter = 2 mm) of a mechanical vibrator. Four skin sites (palmar surface of the tip of the middle finger, volar surface of the forearm, lateral aspect of the shoulder, cheek just caudal to the zygoma) were tested. Results: The fingertip was the most sensitive site for vibrotactile detection at both frequencies in a substantial majority of subjects. The older group of subjects showed significantly higher detection thresholds for both frequencies at all sites, except the fingertip, when compared to young subjects. Conclusion: The study confirms the deterioration of vibrotactile acuity at several skin sites previously reported in the literature. However, there appears to be no significant reduction in vibrotactile detection at the fingertips in older subjects. This may reflect the high receptor density of this area, or the functional importance of vibrotactile sensibility of the fingertips or some combination of both of these factors.
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