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Healthy ageing and diaphragm dysfunction: neuromuscular causes and implications for exercise tolerance.

Project Description

Normal ageing of the respiratory system involves significant and negative structural changes to the lungs, airways, and respiratory muscles. Specifically, healthy ageing is associated with contractile dysfunction and functional weakness of the diaphragm (i.e. the primary inspiratory muscle). However, the changes in neuromuscular function that cause this diaphragm dysfunction in older humans remain poorly understood. In addition, whether diaphragm dysfunction and weakness makes the diaphragm more susceptible to fatigue and plays a role in exercise intolerance in older humans is largely unknown.
This project will use a multidisciplinary experimental approach (cardiopulmonary exercise testing, peripheral and transcranial magnetic nerve stimulation, and ultrasonography) to investigate:
1) the impact of ageing on diaphragm neuromuscular physiology (including contractile properties, central activation, and diaphragm atrophy) in vivo in humans;
2) diaphragm fatigue characteristicsand fatigability in response to exhaustive exercise; and
3) the effect of acute dietary nitrate supplementation on diaphragm contractile function and exercise
tolerance in healthy older adults.

Funding Notes

We are seeking PhD applicants with the skills and enthusiasm to undertake demonstrating with our Sports and Exercise Sciences undergraduate cohorts. The successful candidate will undertake 120-250 hours of teaching per year alongside their PhD research. You should hold (or be expecting) at least a UK upper second class honours, in a relevant discipline and should also have an interest in teaching.
The studentship is open to UK or EU candidates and will provide fees at UK/EU level plus a stipend of £14,777 for 4 years (subject to progress).


Tiller NB, Turner LA, Taylor BJ. Pulmonary and respiratory function in response to 10 marathons in 10 days. Eur J Appl Physiol, 2018; Epub ahead of print (PMID: 30467593).

Taylor BJ, How SC, Romer LM. Expiratory muscle fatigue does not regulate operating lung volumes during high-intensity exercise in healthy humans. J Appl Physiol, 2014; 114: 1569-1576.

Taylor BJ, West CR, Romer LM. No effect of arm-crank exercise on diaphragmatic fatigue or ventilatory constraint in Paralympic athletes with cervical spinal cord injury. J Appl Physiol, 2010; 109(2): 358-366 (PMID:20489038).

Davies MD, Benson AP, Cannon DT, Marwood S, Kemp JG, Rossiter HB, and Ferguson, C. Dissociating external power from intramuscular exercise intensity during intermittent bilateral knee-extension in humans. J Physiol, 595: 6673-6686, 2017

Bowen TS, Eisenkolb S, Drobner J, Fischer T, Werner S, Linke A, Mangner N, Schuler G, Adams V. High-intensity interval training prevents oxidant-mediated diaphragm muscle weakness in hypertensive mice. FASEB J. 31(1):60-71, 2017.

How good is research at University of Leeds in Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 12.50

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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