Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)


Biomedical Sciences

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Istvan Karsai

Committee Members

Alok Agrawal, David Hurley, Antonio Rusinol, Lev Yampolsky


The complexity of the interface between the muscular system and the nervous system is still elusive. We investigated how the neuromuscular system functions and how it is influenced by various perturbations. Postural stability was selected as the model system, because this system provides complex output, which could indicate underlying mechanisms and feedback loops of the neuromuscular system. We hypothesized that aging, physical pain, and mental and physical perturbations affect balancing strategy, and based on these observations, we constructed a model that simulates many aspects of the neuromuscular system. Our results show that aging changes the control strategy of balancing from more chaotic to more repetitive. The chaotic elements ensure quick reactions and strong capacity to compensate for the perturbations; this adeptly reactive state changes into a less reactive, slower, probably less mechanically costly balancing strategy. Mental tasks during balancing also decreased the chaotic elements in balancing strategy, especially if the subject experienced chronic pain. Additional motoric tasks, such as tying knots while balancing, were correlated with age but unaffected by chronic pain. Our model competently predicted the experimental findings, and we proceeded to use the model with an external data set from Physionet to predict the balancing strategy of Parkinson’s patients. Our neurological model, comprised of RLC circuits, provides a mechanistic explanation for the neuromuscular system adaptations.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.