Research

Neuromuscular Function Laboratory

OUR RESEARCH MISSION

Declining neuromuscular function affects physical function and quality of life.

We are examining the mechanisms that explain neuromuscular decline with aging and the physical functional consequences of the changes.

The quality of the signals from the nervous system to muscle is affected by aging.

The Motor Unit converts nervous system impulses into useful force:

  • Variability in motor unit firing rates may contribute to unsteadiness of force seen in aging. This decreased ability to control muscle force may lead to disability, falls, and injury.
  • Additionally, processing during force-matching tasks contributes variability to the descending drive to motor neurons and to muscle force.

Our lab is interested in the neural processes associated with correction of force (keeping steady) and the contribution of motor unit discharge variability to neuromuscular dyscontrol in aging adults.

OUR RESEARCH METHODS AND CAPABILITIES

EXPERIMENTAL APPARATUS

  • Our custom-designed experimental chair allows the measurement of many different muscles of the upper and lower extremity.
  • Knee extensors/flexors, ankle plantar flexors or dorsi flexors, shoulder muscles, elbow flexors/extensors, wrist muscles, extrinsic and intrinsic hand muscles.

FORCE CONTROL

  • Load cells, accelerometers, and electronic goniometers are used to measure neuromuscular output during experimental tasks.
  • Subjects usually either exert maximal forces to measure muscle strength, or submaximal forces to measure the ability to control force.

ELECTROMYOGRAM (EMG)
We measure the electrical activity of the muscle in two different ways:

  • Surface EMG with electrodes on the skin
  • Intramuscular EMG with fine-wire electrodes inserted into the muscle

FUNCTIONAL ACTIVITIES

  • To assess physical function, we conduct a variety of standardized measures of physical function and performance.
  • Gait speed, agility, reaction time, sensory acuity, functional reach, grip strength, hand dexterity, balance, step testing, stair climbing, visual acuity, cognitive speed and function.

POSTURAL STABILITY

  • Subject performs various standing tasks on two force plates.
  • We measure the fluctuations in posture by recording the reaction forces underneath the feet in the forward/backward and right/left directions.
  • Performed in the Clinical Biomechanics Lab (Dr. Reiser, Director)

ACTIVE RESEARCH PROJECTS

Determining the neural mechanisms that underlie the control of large and small muscles of aging adults
Potential subjects: Either healthy or frail older adults (65-90yrs), sedentary, and free of neurological health complications

Effect of diabetic peripheral neuropathy on ankle muscle control and postural stability in older adults
Potential subjects: Healthy older adults (65-95yrs), diagnosed with foot neuropathy, and free of other neurological health complications

Ankle control, balance, locomotion, and physical function after lower-limb nerve decompression surgery in neuropathy patients

COLLABORATORS/FUTURE STUDIES

Department of Occupational Therapy, Colorado State University.
Dr. Matt Malcolm
Stroke, rehabilitation training, brain stimulation, and hand function

Colorado State University. Dr. Manfred Diehl
Frailty, physical function, health behavior, and aging.
Wii-Fit balance training for older adults.

Psychology Department, Colorado State University. Dr's. Ben Clegg, Dave McCabe, Lucy Troup.
Cognitive processing speed and cognitive function

Department of Health and Exercise Science, Colorado State University. Dr's. Raoul Reiser, Chris Bell.
Biomechanics, sympathetic nervous system function

Poudre Valley Foot and Ankle Clinic. Dr. Jim Anderson, DPM
Neuromuscular and functional impact of lower limb nerve decompression

Department of Physical Therapy, University of Utah. Dr. Paul Lastayo
Effects of eccentric training on physical function, fall-risk, and neural control

Ankle muscle control, postural stability, and physical function in frail older adults.
Neural mechanisms of aging and control of shortening and lengthening contractions

LAB MEMBERS

Doctoral Students: Roger Paxton, Megan Fritz

Masters Students: Bethany Murphy

Lab Coordinator: Amy Grossman

Research Assistant: Amin Amin

Undergraduate Research Assistants: Amanda Croy, Blake Volkmer, Emma Boesel, Hunter Murphy, and Jenn McLaggan

Undergraduate Intern: Ryan Wittig

WANT TO BE A SUBJECT?

Subject benefits often include a whole body bone density scan and financial compensation for your time.
Please contact the Lab regarding more participant information.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address:
Neuromuscular Function Laboratory
Moby-B, Room 207
Department of Health and Exercise Science
College of Health and Human Sciences
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado 80523

Lab Phone: (970) 491-3782
Office Phone: (970) 491-2640