NeuroMuscular Research Center


Director: Professor Carlo J. De Luca

The NMRC was established in October 1984.  Its mission is to increase our understanding of human motor control and improve the quality of life for the neuromuscularly impaired. It pursues these goals by performing basic and applied research, and by developing new techniques and technology in electromyography and biomechanics. The NMRC has active collaborations with various hospitals and clinics in the Boston area as well as research groups in seven countries throughout the world.

The NMRC is organized into four laboratories.  Each laboratory is supervised by a faculty member with a scientific staff of research faculty, research assistants, and graduate students, drawn from engineering, medicine, psychology and allied health.  The NMRC attracts scientists and researchers from universities throughout the world and has a staff of over 20 professionals and students.

The Design Lab is laboratory develops novel instrumentation that is used by the staff in its investigations. Several devices and specialized electrodes for detecting and analyzing EMG signals have been developed here; for example, the quadrifilar needle electrode, the parallel-bar surface electrode, the Double-Differential detection technique and the Muscle Fatigue Monitor.

The Motion Analysis Lab is dedicated to developing and implementing engineering and mathematical concepts to study the neural control and biomechanics of posture and locomotion. It is equipped with two motion analysis systems. The facility also has two permanently installed force platforms, two portable platforms, accelerometers, and EMG equipment.

The Motor Unit Lab is supervised by Dr. Paola Contessa. It is dedicated to studying how the brain and spinal cord control the activation of muscle fibers to produce muscle force. The Precision Decomposition Technique was developed here. It is used to identify all the action potentials of concurrently active muscle fibers from the complex EMG signal detected during a muscle contraction.  This technique has achieved international recognition and has been used to understand the code used by the central nervous system to excite muscle fibers. The Common Drive and the Onion Skin phenomena of motor unit control were discovered in this lab. Current interests include studies of motor unit control during muscle fatigue.

The Muscle Fatigue Lab is supervised by Professor Serge H. Roy. It is dedicated to developing and implementing surface EMG techniques for objectively measuring muscle fatigue. Current interests include the fatigue process of lower back muscles associated with lower back pain, and the effects of prolonged space flight on antigravity muscles. The Back Analysis System and a novel procedure for monitoring fatigue during repetitive dynamic activities evolved in this laboratory.