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Franz receives NIH grant to study falls in older adults



BME faculty member Jason Franz has been awarded a new Developmental Research Grant Award (R21) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his proposal titled “The peripheral motor repertoire as a neuromuscular constraint on walking balance integrity in age-related falls risk.” The project represents an exciting collaboration between researchers spanning biomedical engineering and physical therapy at UNC-Chapel Hill, chemical and biomedical engineering at West Virginia University and kinesiology and applied physiology at the University of Delaware.


Franz, the Applied Biomechanics Laboratory and their collaborators will test the overarching hypothesis that a reduction in the peripheral motor repertoire — a library of neuromuscular commands available across walking tasks during which falls could occur — represents a neuromuscular constraint on older adults’ ability to successfully respond to balance perturbations and thereby prevent falls in the community.


The work will be the first to combine state-of the art electromyographic analyses; functional and neuropsychological measures of walking balance integrity, balance self-efficacy and fear of future falls; and a novel and diverse suite of sensory and mechanical balance perturbation paradigms applied during walking. Ultimately, the research aims to introduce a novel neuromuscular mechanism for age-associated balance impairment as a target for diagnostic testing and rehabilitation to prevent falls in older adults.

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