Institute of Neuroscience

Staff Profile

Dr Annette Pantall

Newcastle University Research Fellow

Background

I trained in Osteopathy at the European School of Osteopathy in 1988 and subsequently worked as a clinician as well as teaching at the European School of Osteopathy and other European colleges of osteopathy until 2009.  In 1998, I completed the Pg.Dip. in Biomechanics at the University of Strathclyde. I was awarded a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Surrey in 2008, under the supervision of Dr. David Ewins and the late Steve Hughes. The subject of my doctoral research was patterns of muscle activity in the residual limb in individuals with transfemoral amputation fitted with an osseointegrated prosthesis.

 

In 2009, I took up the position of Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Bev Ulrich’s lab at the University of Michigan, where I investigated the stepping response and effect of different sensory inputs to the stepping response in infants with myelomeningocele.  In 2010, I undertook my second post-doctoral position in Dr. Boris Prilutsky’s lab at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta.   I researched the effect of peripheral nerve injury on feline gait and specifically on myoelectric patterns and spectral changes.  I was an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University from May 2013 until May 2016 where I taught on the Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine course in addition to conducting research in slope walking and neurophysiological changes in tender muscle. I also analyzed changes in feline muscle phenotypes using monoclonal antibodies.

 

In May 2016, I took up a position as a Newcastle University Research Fellow in the Brain and Movement Group, Institute of Neuroscience, where I am working on projects investigating underlying mechanisms of postural, gait and cognitive changes in individuals with neurodegenerative disease.

 

 

My Expertise / Research

The focus of my current research is on understanding underlying mechanisms of postural and gait impairment in individuals with neurodegenerative disease and older adults.  An additional aim is to explore the interactions between motor deficits and cognitive deficits. For example, many older people and people with Parkinson’s disease are unable to simultaneously walk whilst texting or planning. This results in a greater risk of falls. The question is what causes this functional deterioration when motor and cognitive pathways are simultaneously evoked.  Methods we are using include:

 

1) Nonlinear variability of biosignals

Traditionally variability of biosignals across consecutive cycles was considered random.  However, it is now recognized that many biosignals and gait parameters are nonlinear deterministic in nature, displaying a temporal structure. Investigating the signals through nonlinear analysis (e.g. recurrence quantification analysis, multiscale entropy) may inform us of underlying motor control strategies. We currently have studies exploring nonlinearity in electromyography signals, free-living gait data and postural accelerometry signals.

 

2) Patterns of cortical activity in postural control and gait.

Extensive cortical areas are involved in planning and execution of gait, particularly when the person is performing an additional cognitive task.  We have conducted experiments analyzing cortical activity using functional near-infrared spectroscopy to investigate the effect that ageing and Parkinson’s disease have on cortical activity patterns.

3) Muscle activity and spectral patterns in postural control and gait.

 

Walking is a complex cyclical motor activity, involving coordinated contraction of groups of muscles, which are known as modules or synergies. We have been studying muscle synergies using non-negative matrix factorization to investigate how these relate to slower walking velocity and associated greater metabolic expenditure that older adults and people with Parkinson’s disease frequently experience. Spectral analysis may also inform us of changes in motor unit recruitment.

An additional research area we are working on is investigating interventions to improve walking. A specific treatment we are studying is the application of non-invasive brain stimulation of the supplementary motor area together with treadmill training on cortical activity and its effect on gait and cognitive parameters

 

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Publications