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Determining the influence of sex hormones on central and peripheral aspects of motor function across the lifespan S&T34

  • School: School of Science and Technology
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2022

Project ID: S&T34

The motor unit (MU) is the last functional element of the motor system and increases in muscle force production are mediated by recruitment of progressively larger MUs and an increase in MU discharge rate. These processes of muscle force production decline with age and contribute to age associated decrements of neuromuscular function and locomotor activity. This is particularly important in older females, whom despite living for longer are disproportionately affected by disability in later life compared to older males. Oestrogen and progesterone are the predominant female sex hormones and are able to cross the blood-brain barrier potentially influencing the functionality of the central nervous system (CNS) and MU firing rate. Similarly, testosterone (T), the predominant male sex hormone, has an anabolic impact on skeletal muscle and is associated with electrophysiological characteristics in older men. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a precursor of T and we have recently demonstrated positive associations between circulating DHEA levels and MU firing rate in highly active and inactive older men.

Previous findings from the PI and ongoing collaborators have demonstrated declines in MU discharge rate from middle to older age in women, which was not observed in men. Although direct mechanisms are unclear, these findings further highlight the potential contributions of altering sex hormones, in both men and women, on functional motor output and support further targeted assessment across the life course. The aim of this research project is to determine the influence of sex hormones on central and peripheral neuromuscular characteristics across the life-span. This will be achieved by combining novel, state of the art, methods of electromyography (intramuscular and high density; iEMG, HD-EMG) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to explore central and peripheral MU characteristics and associated circulating sex hormone levels in pre-, peri- and post-menopausal women comparatively to young, middle and older age men. Outcomes will provide further support as to why neural input to muscle may be more susceptible to age-related adaptation for women than men, and will inform targeted interventions within the scope of the PhD intended to address the sex-based health span/lifespan paradox. Students will be well supported across the PhD from experienced researchers at both NTU and UoN and trained in a number of in/ex-vivo human physiology techniques, in addition to receiving clinical support throughout the duration of their studies.

For more information please contact Dr Jessica Piasecki.

The supervisory team consists of Dr Jessica Piasecki (NTU), Professor Angus Hunter (NTU) and Dr Matthew Piasecki (University of Nottingham).

School strategic research priority

The project also fits within the University and School of Science and Technology’s strategic Health and Wellbeing research theme. In particular, this project will align with the Schools research and innovation activities by supporting the enhancement of the SHAPE research centre. It also fits the priority research area of Lifestyle approaches and therapies for health.

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

For guidance and to make an application, please visit our studentship application page. The application deadline is Friday 14 January 2022.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2022 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Download our full applicant guidance notes for more information.

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