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McNulty Group - Dr Penelope McNulty

Fine motor control of the body results from a subtle yet complex integration of the motor and sensory systems. My work in human neurophysiology encompasses the control of movement and sensation, and how that control changes in able-bodied people and with healthy aging, stroke and spinal cord injury.

The major focus of my group is the neurophysiology of rehabilitation: why does rehabilitation work? where does rehabilitation work, at which specific sites in the body? how can we make rehabilitation work better for all patients regardless of the severity of their disability?

Our studies in older people investigate not only how physiology changes as we age, but it will also establish age-appropriate targets for movement rehabilitation after stroke, where few currently exist. My detailed approach employs a combination of techniques that will enable us to identify the potential for recovery in pathological conditions and suggest how we might further modify the novel rehabilitation strategies being developed in my group.

Such new approaches will provide individually tailored rehabilitation programs to maximise the restoration of functional movement after stroke and spinal cord injury.

View the latest research publications from the McNulty Group

Research Fellow & Group Leader
OSMR Career Development Fellow
Conjoint Lecturer, School of Medical Sciences, UNSW
T: +612 9399 1074

Penelope McNulty (PhD) graduated from UNSW in 2001. After working at the University of Rochester, NY, USA on a Schmitt Fellowship she moved to the Sydney University during the first years of a NHMRC post-doctoral fellowship, before returning to NeuRA in 2007.
She studies human neurophysiology of the sensory and motor systems in healthy subjects and those with stroke and spinal cord injury including recording from single sensory receptors and stimulating single motor units.
Current studies include investigations of a novel rehabilitation tool after stroke using Wii therapy, and how this changes the way the brain controls force during voluntary movement after stroke and with healthy aging.

Age related sensorimotor changes in the hand

Skin sensation, or the ability to detect contact on the skin, declines with age.

Changes in motor control after spinal cord injury

There are 350-400 new cases of spinal cord injury in Australia every year. These injuries cause sudden and devastating changes in patients’ ability to live independently.

Changes in motor control after stroke

Very little is known about the way in which the body controls voluntary movement changes after stroke, or which neurophysiological structures cause such changes.

Our series of studies will investi

Changes in muscle drive as a function of age

Measuring how well people can drive their muscle to produce maximum forces tells us a lot about the voluntary control of movement.

Changes in the ability of the brain to drive upper limb muscles after spinal cord injury

We are developing a tool that will allow us to identify the potential for the recovery of voluntary movement control after spinal cord injury.

The difference between stimuli delivered to the muscl

Changes in the properties of single receptors in the skin of the hand with healthy aging

We know that the ability to detect contact with the skin changes with age.

Improving rehabilitation after stroke

Every year more than 60,000 Australians suffer a stroke and this number will only increase with the aging population the growing epidemics of obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes.

Because the

Peripheral fatigue in motor control of human hand muscles

Fatigue is commonly experienced not only by those with a disease or injury, but also by healthy people in everyday life.

The length-tension relationship of single motor units in muscles acting on the hand

The ability of a muscle to produce force depends on many factors including the length of the muscle.

The physiology of improved functional movement with Wii therapy

Successful rehabilitation after stroke is limited by many factors including trained personnel, equipment, time and money.

One of the biggest impediments in rehabilitation is patient compliance and

Research team 
Dr Penelope McNulty's picture
Dr Penelope McNulty
Research Fellow & Group Leader
OSMR Career Development Fellow
T: +612 9399 1074
Christine Shiner's picture
Christine Shiner
PhD Student
T: +612 9399 1817
Terry Trinh's picture
Terry Trinh
Masters Student
T: +612 9399 1126