The Motor Control Laboratory

Motor control is the study of how the brain controls movements. 

The aim is to understand how motor control in healthy participants varies across our lifespan and how movements are affected by disease or injury to the central and peripheral nervous system; exploring ways we can improve motor control and functional movements with rehabilitation.

Understanding movement and functional ability

Movements underpin everyday functional activities such as walking, reaching and manipulating objects. Our research investigates how movements are affected in children and adults with neurological conditions such as neuropathy, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) and hereditary conditions. Understanding how neurological conditions affect movement help us to develop and refine interventions that aim to improve movement and functional ability.

We explore movement in healthy participants and people with peripheral and central neurological conditions using techniques such as whole body recordings during constrained and unconstrained movements, and simultaneous recordings of the electrical signals produced by the brain and muscle during movements. By selectively stimulating sensory channels we can understand how sensations (such as vision, vestibular and somatosensory) contribute to standing balance and the stabilisation of eye and head movements.

When we walk we dynamically balance accurately, coordinating the body with how our leg steps. As part of an NIHR funded fellowship Rachel Rapson, Doctoral Fellow and Physiotherapist at the Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust is investigating how dynamic balance, while stepping, is affected in children with cerebral palsy and spastic diplegia or hemiplegia, and its impact on symptoms such as weakness and spasticity. A feasibility study of a novel walking and balance trainer will begin in 2020.

Reducing the impact of long term conditions

Stroke and diabetic peripheral neuropathy are increasing due to an ageing population. These conditions, as well as other long term conditions affecting people of working age such as MS and hereditary spastic paraparesis, and cerebral palsy affecting children and young adults, all affect the ability to move, limiting functional ability and quality of life. This has a large economic burden on health and social care and earnings. Understanding movement disorders and translating these findings into clinical trials of interventions will help reduce the burden and impact of these long term conditions. 

Developments in our ability to investigate movements in more real-world settings using techniques such as 3D motion analysis and virtual reality, combined with advances in robotics, means we are increasingly able to understand how neurological long term conditions affect movement and functional ability.

Motor Control Laboratory Lead, Professor Jonathan Marsden is investigating how vestibular damage in multiple sclerosis (MS) affects the control of eye movements and balance and whether this can be improved with vestibular rehabilitation. 

This multi-centre trial is funded by the Multiple Sclerosis Society and will be completed by 2021.

Research expertise

Lab lead Professor Jonathan Marsden, Professor in Rehabilitation

Other research in this lab will be carried out by Professor Stephen Hall, Dr Ian Howard, Rachel Rapson.

Key publications

Gaetz W, Rhodes E, Bloy L, Blaskey L, Jackel CR, Brodkin ES, Waldman A, Embick D, Hall S, Roberts TP. (2019). Evaluating motor cortical oscillations and age-related change in autism spectrum disorder. Neuroimage. 11:116349. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116349.

Prokic E., Woodhall, GL, Williams AC, Stanford IM,, Hall SD. (2019). Bradykinesia is driven by cumulative beta power during continuous movement and alleviated by GABAergic modulation in Parkinson’s disease. Frontiers in Neurology 10: 1298. https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2019.01298.

Rhodes E. Gaetz W, Marsden J and Hall SD. (2018). Transient alpha and beta synchrony underlies preparatory recruitment of directional motor networks. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 0(6):867-875. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01250

Prokic EJ, Weston C, Yamawaki N, Hall SD, Jones RS, Stanford IM, Ladds G, Woodhall GL. (2015).Cortical oscillatory dynamics and benzodiazepine-site modulation of tonic inhibition in fastspiking interneurons. Neuropharmacology. 20; 95:192-205.

Hall SD, Prokic EJ, McAllister CJ, Ronnqvist KC, Williams AC, Witton C, Woodhall GL, Stanford IM.(2014). GABA-mediated changes in inter-hemispheric beta frequency activity in early-stage Parkinson’s disease. Neuroscience 281 :68-76.

Lacey MG, Gooding-Williams G, Prokic EJ, Yamawaki N, Hall SD, Stanford IM, Woodhall GL.(2014). Spike Firing and IPSPs in Layer V Pyramidal Neurons during Beta Oscillations in RatPrimary Motor Cortex (M1) InVitro. PLoS ONE, 9(1):e85109.

Ronnqvist KC, McAllister CJ, Woodhall GL, Stanford & Hall SD. (2013). A multimodal perspectiveon the composition of cortical oscillations. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 7, 132.

Mcallister CJ, Ronnqvist KC, Woodhall GL, Stanford IM, Furlong PL & Hall SD. (2013). OscillatoryBeta Activity Mediates Neuroplastic Effects of Motor Cortex Stimulation in Humans. Journal of Neuroscience 33(18):7919-7927

Yamawaki N, Magill PJ, Woodhall GL, Hall, SD., & Stanford, IM. (2012). Frequency selectivity and dopamine dependence of plasticity at cortico-subthalamic synapses. Neuroscience. 17;203:1-11.

Hall SD, Stanford IM, Yamawaki N, McAllister CJ, Rönnqvist KC, Woodhall GL & Furlong PL. (2011) The role of GABAergic modulation in motor function related neuronal network activity. NeuroImage. 56(3):1506-10.

Hall SD, Yamawaki N, Fisher AE, Clauss RP, Woodhall GL & Stanford IM. (2010). Desynchronisation of pathological low-frequency brain activity by the hypnotic drug zolpidem. Clinical Neurophysiology. 121(4): 549-55.

Hall SD, Barnes GR, Furlong PL, Seri S & Hillebrand A. (2010) Neuronal network pharmacodynamics of GABAergic modulation in the human cortex determined using pharmaco-MEG. Human Brain Mapping. 31(4): 581-94.

Yamawaki N, Hall SD, Stanford IM & Woodhall GL. (2008). Pharmacologically induced and stimulus-evoked rhythmic neuronal oscillatory activity in the primary motor cortex (M1) in vitro. Neuroscience. 151(2): 386-95.

Gorst T, Freeman J, Yarrow K, Marsden J. Assessing Plantar Sensation in the Foot Using the Foot Roughness Discrimination Test (FoRDT): A Reliability and Validity Study in Stroke. PM R. 2019 Jan 28. doi: 10.1002/pmrj.12085. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 30690894.

Gorst T, Freeman J, Yarrow K, Marsden J. Assessing lower limb position sense in stroke using the gradient discrimination test (GradDT™) and step-height discrimination test (StepDT™): a reliability and validity study. Disability Rehabilitation. 2019 Jan 14:1-9. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2018.1554008. [Epub ahead of print] PubMedPMID: 30636492.

Nielsen G, Buszewicz M, Stevenson F, Hunter R, Holt K, Dudziec M, Ricciardi L,Marsden J, Joyce E, Edwards MJ. Randomised feasibility study of physiotherapy for patients with functional motor symptoms. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2016 pii: jnnp-2016-314408. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2016-314408.

Ofori J, Freeman J, Logan A, Rapson R, Zajieck J, Hobart J, Marsden J. An investigation of commonly prescribed stretches of the ankle plantarflexors in people with Multiple Sclerosis. Clin Biomech 2016;37:22-6

Amesz S, Tessari A, Ottoboni G, Marsden J. An observational study of implicit motor imagery using laterality recognition of the hand after stroke. Brain Inj. 2016;30(8):999-1004

Denton A, Bunn L, Hough A, Bugmann G, Marsden J. Superficial warming and cooling of the leg affects walking speed and neuromuscular impairments in people with spastic paraparesis. Ann Phys Rehabil Med. 2016 Dec;59(5-6):326-332.

Tustin K, Gimeno H, Morton E, Marsden J. Rater reliability and scoring duration of the Quality Function Measure in ambulant children with hyperkinetic movement disorders. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2016 Aug;58(8):822.

Glasser S, Collings R, Paton J, Marsden J. Effect of experimentally reduced distal sensation on postural response to hip abductor/ankle evertor muscle vibration. Gait Posture. 2015 Jul;42(2):193-8.

Bunn LM, Marsden JF, Voyce DC, Giunti P, Day BL. Sensorimotor processing for balance in spinocerebellar ataxia type 6. Mov Disord. 2015 Apr 16. doi: 10.1002/mds.26227.

Bunn LM, Marsden JF, Giunti P, Day BL. (2015)Training balance with opto-kinetic stimuli in the home: a randomized controlled feasibility study in people with pure cerebellar disease. Clin Rehabil.;29(2):143-53.

Enhancing research through BRIC

By combining neuroscience research in one central hub, BRIC provides the critical mass and collaborative environment to develop neuroscience research that will translate into clinical trials having a real impact on people’s lives. The access to imaging will provide additional avenues to investigate the pathophysiology of neurological conditions and the mechanisms underlying rehabilitation techniques. 

This laboratory will feature: 

  • 3D motion analysis
  • Force plate recordings
  • Surface EMG
  • Ultrasound.