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Grad student explores activity and aging

September 7, 2012

Grad student explores activity and aging
Tom Thomaes (right) participates in research with graduate student Geoff Power, PhD'12, at Western's Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging.

Geoff Power studies power. Not the kind that fuels our appliances or lights. But rather how nerves work with muscles to produce movement in our bodies. In particular, he investigates power generation (the ability to move) following muscle damage, especially when our bodies age.

"In aging, we get slower and our muscle contraction properties – such as force, power and velocity – get lower," says Geoff, a recipient of a Western Fund Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) and fourth-year PhD student in kinesiology. "We simply become more fatigable."

Through his research at Western’s Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging (CCAA), Geoff wants to discover the effects of fatigue and muscle damage on short, speed-dependent power loss and recovery. During his research, Geoff induces damage to the muscles of participants, and then tests their ability to generate power.

"If older adults are stressed with fast movements, they're in fact more fatigable than younger adults. At our lab, we've shown that older adults experience more fatigue when their muscles are stressed by everyday tasks, and now we're seeing that their muscles are fatigued by fast, rapid contractions," he says.

Geoff credits his OGS funding, plus other sources of research funding, for helping advance his studies. "I'm thankful that donors have contributed to make scholarships possible for myself and other graduate students," says Geoff, who came to Western after completing undergraduate and master’s degrees. "This kind of award has allowed me to stay focused on my lab work to advance my research and to not worry as much about finances.”

The funding to Geoff, and to other students like him, will eventually propel valuable research. In Geoff's case, his studies will help increase knowledge about how age and activity influence human motor control and function.

He plans to complete his PhD this fall, and then move onto post-doctoral studies in 2013 – making further discoveries about power.

This article appeared in the 2012 edition of Annual Impact
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