Does deep brain stimulation improve balance in people with Parkinson’s disease?

Poor balance is common in people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). This can significantly impact on quality of life. The ability to generate a step quickly and accurately after a loss of balance is critical to avoid falling. The most effective medical treatment for PD (levodopa) seems to offer no benefit to these balance responses (King […]

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Is the voluntary control of breathing the same as normal involuntary breathing?

Most of the time, our breathing is controlled involuntarily so that we don’t need to consciously think about breathing in and out all the time (for reviews, see Feldman & Del Negro, 2006; Richter & Smith, 2014). However, there are many instances where we need to voluntarily control how fast and/or deep we breathe. For […]


Increasing gravity reveals the mechanism of human tremor

Everyone experiences some degree of involuntary motion when trying to keep their hand still. Known as physiological tremor, the underlying mechanisms have been debated for over a century. Two explanations, neural and mechanical, are generally offered. The neural theory suggests that involuntary movements directly reflect oscillations in the control signal sent to arm muscles (McAuley […]

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Breathing: a constant requirement, but is respiratory muscle activation adaptable?

Over 15 000 times every day we draw air into the lungs by expansion of the chest wall and abdomen; we breathe. This movement occurs by activation of inspiratory muscles from electrical signals from the brain to the respiratory motoneurones in the spinal cord. There are many inspiratory muscles that can expand the chest wall and […]


Thinking while walking: a challenge to balance control in ageing

Previous research had shown that when people are required to simultaneously perform a cognitive and balance task their performance is worsened in one or both tasks, and that this interference is even more marked in people with reduced sensorimotor and/or cognitive functioning due to age and disease [1-2]. Interestingly, it seems that cognitive tasks where […]

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In one ear out the other: balance and vestibular recalibration

We continually receive sensory information about our environment and ourselves. Similar to human interactions, some sources of information are more credible than others. Thus, how does the central nervous system decide what source of information to listen to? What happens if the only available source of information is a distorted version of reality? These are […]


More is better: an improved technique for enhancing plasticity in the human spinal cord

Repetitive pairing of stimuli to the motor cortex and peripheral nerves supplying muscles can induce plasticity at synapses between nerve cells that control voluntary muscle activity. This technique has therapeutic potential for enhancing activity at synapses that lie within the spinal cord  and transmit commands from the brain to the muscles; thus the technique may […]

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Anaesthesia makes us feel fat, not big

The brain cannot properly control the movement of the body without knowing something about its size.  However, the body does not have receptors to signal size directly, the brain has to work it out using information from multiple senses (e.g. touch, vision, proprioception) and then store it in body “maps” for use during movement control.  […]


Measuring responses to environmental forces post-stroke using robots 1

Stroke can impair motor and/or sensory systems in very different ways depending on the individual (Teasell & Hussein, 2013). Currently, many neurological measures of the functional consequences of stroke use very coarse scales and/or rely of the subjective judgements of clinicians (Scott & Dukelow, 2011). In our lab we are developing a suite of behavioural […]

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Human muscles fascicles: what can ultrasound and diffusion tensor imaging reveal?

Following a stroke or spinal cord injury some people develop stiff joints, sometimes referred to as contracture. It is not well understood why contractures develop. Also, it is not clear whether they result from changes in the muscle or the tendon, which is why researchers and clinicians are very interested in the mechanical properties of […]