Understanding the neurobiology that dictates our muscular function

Do you remember the last time your electricity stopped working at home and with the flip of a switch on the breaker box, power was restored? Dr. Roger Enoka, a professor of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder has been on a quest to better understand how we might flip the breaker box of the human nervous system to restore muscular function that decreases with aging and disease.

Much like powering a home, the human body has a series of circuits and connections that help to initiate movements as complex as those necessary for being an elite athlete and as simple as brushing your teeth each night. It is no mystery that as we age and encounter disease, movement decreases. However, what makes Dr. Enoka's research so promising is that as he continues to move closer to understanding what is changing in the circuitry of the nervous system to cause muscular degeneration, we are coming closer to preventative and restorative measures that could alter the aging process for all of us and the diseases process for patients with Multiple Sclerosis and additional neurological diseases.

 

  • Mobility declines across the lifespan beginning in middle age adults even before there is loss of muscle strength therefore suggesting the nervous system is changing rather than muscular structures.

  • Through understanding the changes within the nervous system, research will allow us to slow the neuromuscular aging process.

  • Multiple Sclerosis is a neurological disease that causes fatigue and loss of muscular functioning preventing patients from being able to walk.

  • Dr. Enoka's research looks to treat MS patients using neuromuscular electrostimulation therapy thereby restoring aspects of neuromuscular functioning and reducing the decline in mobility. In addition, they are using brain MRIs to better understand patient's perceptions of fatigue that may be treatable.

 

Dr. Enoka's research aims to resolve the neuromuscular degeneration caused by neurological disease and to slow the neuromuscular aging process. If successful, his treatments will reduce the loss of mobility for Multiple Sclerosis patients and help to understand how to increase the lifespan of the human body's muscular functioning.

Bio

Dr. Roger Enoka first found his passion for human movement as a graduate student at the University of Washington where he sought to better understand how movements are controlled. His courses in engineering and neurophysiology lead him to question the connection between biomechanics and neurophysiology by which he subsequently coined the term "neuromechanics" to represent this relationship.

As a professor in the Integrative Physiology Department at the University of Colorado Boulder, Dr. Enoka's research now studies the neuromuscular determinants of motor function across the lifespan. His work seeks to determine the adaptations that are responsible for specific movement deficits and to develop effective preventative and restorative treatments for neurological diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and to identify the neuromuscular adaptations responsible for the decline in mobility.

Awards

Muybridge Award, 2011