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Doctoral training U of Delaware: motor unit research

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  • Doctoral training U of Delaware: motor unit research

    Christopher A. Knight, Ph.D. at the University of Delaware is seeking
    applicants for Doctoral training with a research focus on the control of
    muscular force at the level of the motor unit. Students will begin their
    training in September of 2007 with NIH support to work on a project
    described below. Competitive applicants will have earned a relevant,
    research-oriented MS degree and exceptional applicants will possess
    competency in statistics, computer programming, implementation of laboratory
    hardware, and written and oral communication of research findings. Dr.
    Knight is within the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences
    in the College of Health Sciences:
    . The Ph.D. program is organized within an
    interdisciplinary program entitled Biomechanics and Movement Science (BIOMS) Potential applicants to the BIOMS
    program should contact Dr. Knight directly at

    1 R03 AG026322-01
    Motor unit discharge and slowed motor output in elderly

    The elderly are often frustrated by poor control during precision tasks, and
    slower production of muscular force has specific importance in fall
    prevention. Motor unit research is in dire need of expanded paradigms to
    provide new information about control mechanisms during real-world tasks.
    We will examine age-related differences in two relevant motor unit discharge
    behaviors and provide information that can be used to improve movement
    quality in older adults and also in patient populations. Aim 1 is about
    rate coding during the precise control of sinusoidal isometric contractions.
    It is hypothesized that that the amplitude of firing rate modulation is less
    in older adults, perhaps due to enhanced twitch summation of aged muscle
    fibers with slowed contractility. Aim 2 is about motor unit discharge
    behavior during rapid force production from rest as well as from a
    submaximal force level. It is hypothesized that during the initiation of
    rapid contractions, the initial firing rates of aged motor units will be
    slower and there will be fewer doublet discharges, as compared to young
    adults. Motor unit and muscular force recordings, surface electromyography
    and contractile properties will be obtained from the first dorsal
    interosseous muscle of 20 young (65 years) adults.
    Successful experiments in these conditions can be considered significant
    progress in motor unit research. In addition to furthering knowledge of
    normal aging at the level of the motor unit, this project will provide vast
    new information about motor unit discharge behavior in general. Consider
    for example: 1) the value of this normative data for similar research in
    patient populations, and 2) a better knowledge of neural commands in healthy
    individuals can help to improve the functional electrical stimulation of
    paralyzed muscle. This project also provides the basis for future research
    on the adaptability of these neural factors and function in older adults and
    patient populations.