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Neuromuscular Control and Plasticity Lab: Spinal Reflex Contributions to Multi-joint Posture


This project focuses on postural control of the arm rather than movement control, using techniques that are well established in our laboratory. Specifically, we are interested in how the ability to successfully maintain arm posture is constrained by abnormal patterns of reflex excitability following stroke. Whole-limb posture is controlled by feedforward (corticomotor) and feedback (reflex) neural pathways which activate muscles of the arm to regulate whole-limb mechanics. When postural control is unimpaired, these pathways control the effortless coordination of movements of multiple joints within the arm. This allows the arm to function as a whole and serve as a scaffold for the hand, supporting its own weight while transporting the hand through space to execute fine motor tasks. Thus, nearly all purposeful whole limb movements, such as opening a door handle, twisting a screwdriver, brushing our teeth, and lifting a glass to our mouth to drink, are dependent on the ability to maintain stable whole-limb postures. However, the neural pathways controlling multijoint coordination become altered following stroke, leading to a characteristic inability to control the joints of the upper-limb independently. This constricts the workspace of the hemiparetic upper limb, decreases its function, and degrades the quality of life of the chronic stroke survivor. My work focuses on reflex control of whole-arm posture in healthy subjects.



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