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Effect of temperature and fatigue on neuromuscular properties of older people

Project Description

Background and aims
The ability of older people to contract their muscles rapidly is essential to reduce the risk of falling and negotiate daily living activities, such as recovering from tripping or crossing the road (1). These rapid contractions can be required in different environmental temperature and fatigue conditions. Previous studies, however, have largely examined their effects on muscular contractions in younger populations, with the findings being also inconsistent (2), and possibly non-applicable to older population due to muscle properties altering with age (3).

The aim of the project is twofold:

a) to enable direct comparisons of the neuromechanical muscle properties related to threats to postural stability in older people
b) examine the effect of temperature and fatigue, two common daily conditions, on those properties.

PhD candidate skill development
The PhD candidate will benefit from the experience of a project combining muscle mechanics and physiology, utilising a range of techniques to assess neuromuscular properties allowing us to understand the mechanistic responses to temperature and fatigue status changes.

More specifically:
• Thesis related - The student will collect and develop the literature review on the topic
• Testing related - The student will learn how to run the full testing battery required, recruit participants, arrange and conduct testing at the Human Performance Laboratory.
• Laboratory-based skills related - The student will be measuring leg extensor torque using isokinetic dynamometry (in both isometric and isokinetic modes), muscle activity using electromyography and electromechanical delay using the above two plus the electromyostimulator, under three temperature conditions and rested / fatigues state. Additionally, they will develop their data analysis skills, as the data generated will be considerable as well as requiring processing before it can be statistically analysed.

Studies 1 and 2 will target the first aim by allowing direct comparisons of the relevant neuromechanical muscle properties (electromechanical delay, rate of force development, maximal voluntary contraction force, and voluntary activation) between the different experimental conditions; temperature (cold, ambient, hot) and fatigue (rest, fatigue). Studies 3 and 4 will target the second aim by utilising the findings from Studies 1 and 2 to explore the combined effect of the experimental conditions on neuromechanical properties and postural stability.

Benefits from the proposal
It is hoped that the findings will serve as a a) source of better understanding of the neuromechanical properties of the older people, as the direct comparison will allow a more robust conclusion, and how they are affected by common situations, and b) serve as a springboard for more studies and further, external research funding. The results should inform, or support recommendations towards, fall prevention interventions and exercise programmes in order to enable better designs, equipped to strengthen older people in line with everyday demands. In addition, this project can serve to a) develop the University’s research in ageing towards physical performance, and b) develop relevant research and collaboration with the growing Sport and Exercise Science team.

Supplementary material
Examples of previous work:
• In isokinetic dynamometry, electromyography and muscle stimulation - Bampouras et al, 2017; Bampouras et al, 2017
• Of a basic project of the proposed work - Spillane and Bampouras, 2018
• Of work with older people / patients: Bampouras and Dewhurst, 2016; Thomas et al, 2018; Maslivec et al, 2018; Nixon et al, 2019

Funding Notes

Applications should be made directly to Dr Theodoros M. Bampouras, and should include:

CV (max 2 A4 sides), including details of two academic references
A cover letter outlining your qualifications and interest in the studentship (max 2 A4 sides)


1. Dewhurst S, Nelson N, Dougall PK, Bampouras TM. Scottish country dance: benefits to functional ability in older women. J Aging Phys Act. 2014;22(1):146-53.
2. Kent-Braun JA. Skeletal muscle fatigue in old age: whose advantage? Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2009 Jan;37(1):3–9.
3. McCormick R, Vasilaki A. Age-related changes in skeletal muscle: changes to life-style as a therapy. Biogerontology. 2018 Dec 1;19(6):519–36.
4. Spillane P, Bampouras TM. Heat strain affects rate of torque development in electrically stimulated but not maximal voluntary contractions. J Sports Sci. 2018 36(Supplement 1):46

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