Neuromuscular Plasticity Laboratory
UCF Division of Physical Therapy
Within the last decade, it has become increasingly obvious that skeletal muscle strength is a vital biomarker of overall health. Muscle weakness independently predicts injury, illness, quality of life, and all-cause mortality. On the bright side, consistent participation in strength training has been shown to reduce the risk of disease and injury while slowing down biological aging. While the fields of exercise physiology and rehabilitation science have traditionally focused on muscle tissue, emerging evidence suggests that interventions targeting the nervous system are also worthy of scientific inquiry.
Formally established in 2018, the mission of the UCF Neuromuscular Plasticity Laboratory is to leverage the plasticity of the neuromuscular system – from the brain to the muscle – to test and develop interventions that enhance health and rehabilitation outcomes by preventing and minimizing skeletal muscle weakness across the lifespan.
Our vision is for our laboratory findings to support or challenge existing protocols employed by those striving to prevent disease and improve human performance. Our laboratory strives to be collaborative while seeking interdisciplinary opportunities to better understand how neuromuscular plasticity may enhance physical function.
Meet Our Team
- Brennan J. Thompson, Ph.D., Utah State University
- Jason M. DeFreitas, Ph.D., Oklahoma State University
- Xin Ye, Ph.D., Hartford University
- Youngdeok Kim, Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University
- Joshua C. Carr, Texas Christian University
- Jacob A. Mota, University of Alabama
- Gena Gerstner, Ph.D., Old Dominion University
- Michael Roberts, Ph.D., Auburn University
The UCF Neuromuscular Plasticity Laboratory has the equipment, technology, and expertise needed to perform objective, well-controlled experiments. Much of our equipment is portable, making it easy to collect data not only in the laboratory, but also in clinics, hospitals, schools, and athletic settings. Our areas of specialization and associated equipment include:
Neuromuscular Physiology – The UCF Neuromuscular Plasticity Laboratory is particularly interested in understanding how the brain and spinal cord control muscles, and how this information changes in response to aging, disuse, and various exercise/rehabilitation interventions. This information can be studied during voluntary contractions or involuntarily via stimulation of the motor cortex, nerves, and muscles.
- Delsys Trigno wireless surface EMG system
- Delsys surface EMG signal decomposition analyses (dEMG)
- Magstim BiStim2 Transcranial magnetic stimulator
- DS7AH Constant Current Stimulator
Muscle Performance – Our laboratory’s primary research areas involve the analysis of muscle strength, weakness, and fatigue. Each of these measurements can be performed in conjunction with electromyography (EMG), which allows for a better understanding of the neuromuscular system’s control of muscle force. We believe that there is scientific value in studying the performance of an individual muscle group, as well as the whole body.
- Biodex System 4 isokinetic dynamometer
- AMTI Accupower portable force plate
- Custom-built isometric devices for testing of the knee extensors and elbow flexors
Body Composition and Muscle Size and Quality – Our laboratory has the ability to study body composition (i.e., body fat and muscle mass) with the use of ultrasound, DXA, and BIS measurements. These tools can be used to compare groups of individuals or track changes in muscle hypertrophy/atrophy or fat mass in response to various interventions. B-mode ultrasound also allows for imaging of tendons and ligaments.
- GE NextGen LOGIQ e Portable Ultrasound
- ImpediMed SFB7 bioimpedance spectroscopy (BIS) device
- GE Lunar dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry
- Lange skinfold calipers and circumferences
Exercise Training – On occasion, our studies will involve training interventions in which members of the community will have the opportunity to engage in supervised exercise training. The UCF Neuromuscular Plasticity Laboratory has all of the exercise equipment needed to improve an individual’s muscle strength, fitness, and endurance.
- Sole TT8 Treadmill
- Sorinex Dark Horse Power Racks
- Rogue Ohio bar and Rogue B&R bar
- 500+ lbs. of free weights
Cardiorespiratory Fitness – Cardiorespiratory fitness is an important predictor of aerobic exercise performance and also has important health implications. Our laboratory is well-equipped to examine ability of the body’s circulatory and respiratory systems to supply fuel and oxygen during sustained physical activity.
- ParvoMedics TrueOne® 2400 Metabolic Measurement System
- Spirometry and maximum voluntary ventilation assessment
- Lode Corival CPET Bike
Our laboratory makes a concerted effort to publish our findings in respected academic journals and present at regional, national, and international conferences. In addition to contributing to collective body of knowledge in a given field, presenting original data at conferences is a fun way for the lab’s students to enhance their self-confidence and network with other scientists.
UCF Neuromuscular Plasticity Laboratory
Education Complex and Gym, ED 174
4000 Central Florida Blvd
Orlando, FL 32816