Institute of Neuroscience Faculty
Professor , Department of Human Physiology
Ph.D., 1973, University of Southern California
Postural control systems in humans; characterization of changes in neural processing systems across the life-span
Movement independence requires the ability to balance independently and to adapt balance abilities to a variety of contexts. Postural or balance control is the foundation underlying performance of most other movement tasks, such as walking and eye-hand coordination skills.
Marjorie Woollacott has been the director of the Motor Control Lab at the University of Oregon since 1980. One of her areas of expertise is aging and falls. She is exploring the factors leading to loss of balance function in the older adult, in order to improve the quality of life and independence of adults well into old age. In addition, she is studying the development of balance control in normal children and in children with motor problems such as Cerebral palsy and Down Syndrome. She is currently designing new assessment and treatment strategies to improve balance function in both the child with motor problems and in the older adult who is prone to losses of balance and falls. She also has ongoing studies on sensory contributions to music performance, in collaboration with Steve Pologe, professor of cello performance in the School of Music, and studies on attentional network changes associated with meditation practice.
She has co-authored with Dr. Anne Shumway-Cook a major textbook used in Physical Therapy schools across the US and Europe titled "Motor Control: Theory and Practical Applications" (Williams and Wilkins), with its 3rd edition in press. She has ongoing grants from National Institutes of Health to study balance and falls in the older adult and to study balance in children control problems in children with cerebral palsy. She is also past president of the International Society for Posture and Gait Research..
In the studies on aging and balance control, older adults are asked to walk across a platform that may unexpectedly move forward, simulating a slip on ice or another slippery surface. Muscles that are activated to restore balance are tibialis anterior (TA), rectus femoris (RF), gluteus medius (GME) and abdominals (AB). The graphs plot muscle response onset latency, burst duration and burst magnitude of these muscles for young (clear bars) vs older (dotted bars) adults. Note that older adults have delayed onset latencies, longer burst durations and smaller burst magnitudes than young adults. (The * indicates significant differences)
- Silsupadol P, Siu, K, Shumway-Cook A, Woollacott MH. Training of Balance under Single and Dual Task Conditions in Older Adults with Balance Impairment: Three Case Reports. Physical Therapy 2006; 86: 269-281.
- Gatts S, Woollacott MH. Neural mechanisms underlying balance improvements with short term Tai Chi training. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research 2006; 18: 7-19.
- Hess, J, Woollacott M. Effect of high-intensity strength-training on functional measures of balance ability in balance-impaired older adults. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 2005; 28: 582-590.
- Roncesvalles MN, Schmitz C, Zedka M, Assaiante C, Woollacott M. From egocentric to exocentric spatial orientation: The development of postural control in bi-manual and trunk inclination tasks. Journal of Motor Behavior 2005; 37: 404-416.
- Woollacott M, Shumway-Cook A, Ciol M, Price R, Kartin D. Effect of balance training on muscle activity used in recovery of stability in children with cerebral palsy: a pilot study. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 2005; 47: 455-461.
- Woollacott MH, Shumway-Cook A. Postural dysfunction during standing and walking in children with cerebral palsy: What are the underlying problems and what new therapies might improve balance? Neural Plasticity 2005; 12: 211-219.
- VanderVelde TJ, Woollacott MH, Shumway-Cook A. Selective utilization of spatial working memory resources during stance posture. Neuroreport 2005; 16: 773-777.
- Adomaitis Verrier L, Langan J, Shumway-Cook A, Woollacott M. An intensive massed-practice approach to retraining balance post-Stroke. Gait and Posture 2005; 22: 154-163.
- Lin S-I, Woollacott MH. Jensen J. Differentiating postural responses following dynamically changing balance threats in young adults, healthy older adults and unstable older adults: Kinematics and Kinetics. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research 2004; 16: 369-374.
- Ferber, R., L.R. Osternig, M.H. Woollacott, N.J. Wasielewski, and J.H. Lee (2003) Gait perturbation response in chronic anterior cruciate ligament deficiency and repair. Clin. Biomech. (Bristol, Avon) 18: 132-141.
- Brauer, S.G., M. Woollacott, and A. Shumway-Cook (2002) The influence of a concurrent cognitive task on the compensatory stepping response to a perturbation in balance-impaired and healthy elders. Gait Posture 15: 83-93.
- Ferber, R., L.R. Osternig, M.H. Woollacott, N.J. Wasielewski, and J.H. Lee (2002) Gait mechanics in chronic ACL deficiency and subsequent repair. Clin. Biomech. (Bristol, Avon) 17: 274-285.
- Ferber, R., L.R. Osternig, M.H. Woollacott, N.J. Wasielewski, and J.H. Lee (2002) Reactive balance adjustments to unexpected perturbations during human walking. Gait Posture 16: 238-248.
- Lin, S.I. and M.H. Woollacott (2002) Postural muscle responses following changing balance threats in young, stable older, and unstable older adults. J. Mot. Behav. 34: 37-44.
- Roncesvalles, M.N., M.H. Woollacott, and P.A. Burtner (2002) Neural factors underlying reduced postural adaptability in children with cerebral palsy. Neuroreport 13: 2407-2410.
- Witherington, D.C., C. von Hofsten, K. Rosander, A. Robinette, M. Woollacott, and B. Bertenthal (2002) The development of anticipatory adjustments in infancy. Infancy 4:495-517.
- Woollacott, M. and C. Assaiante (2002) Developmental changes in compensatory responses to unexpected resistance of leg lift during gait initiation. Exp. Brain Res. 144: 385-396.
- Woollacott, M. and A. Shumway-Cook (2002) Attention and the control of posture and gait: a review of an emerging area of research. Gait Posture 16: 1-14.
- Jensen, J.L., L.A. Brown, and M.H. Woollacott (2001) Compensatory stepping: the biomechanics of a preferred response among older adults. Exp. Aging Res. 27: 361-376.
- Brauer, S.G., M. Woollacott, and A. Shumway-Cook (2001) The interacting effects of cognitive demand and recovery of postural stability in balance-impaired elderly persons. J. Gerontol. A Biol. Sci. Med. Sci. 56: M 489-496.
- Brown, L.A., J.L. Jensen, T. Korff, and M.H. Woollacott (2001) The translating platform paradigm: perturbation displacement waveform alters the postural response. Gait Posture 14: 256-263.
- Roncesvalles, M.N., M.H. Woollacott, and J.L. Jensen (2001) Development of lower extremity kinetics for balance control in infants and young children. J. Mot. Behav. 33: 180-192.
- Sundermier, L., M. Woollacott, N. Roncesvalles, and J. Jensen (2001) The development of balance control in children: comparisons of EMG and kinetic variables and chronological and developmental groupings. Exp. Brain Res. 136: 340-350.