Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Approximately 20 million Americans are suffering Peripheral Neuropathy (PN). It is estimated that the prevalence of all-cause PN is about 2.4% in the entire adult population, whereas over 8-10% in the population segment over the age of 55 (Martyn & Hughes, 1997). Peripheral Neuropathy leads to a high risk of falling, resulting from the deficits of postural control caused by the impaired peripheral nerves, especially the degenerative somatosensory system. To date, there is no effective medical treatment for the disease but pain managements. The deficits of postural control decrease the life quality of this population. The degeneration of peripheral nerves reduces sensory inputs from the somatosensory system to central nervous system via spinal reflexive loop, which should provide valuable real-time information for balance correction. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate how PN affects the somatosensory system regarding postural control. Besides that, people with PN may develop a compensatory mechanism which could be reinforced by exercise training, ultimately to improve balance and mobility in their daily life. The neuroplasticity may occur within somatosensory system by relying on relative intact sensory resources. Hence, unveiling the compensatory mechanism in people with PN may help in understanding (a) essential sensations or function of peripheral nerves to postural control, (b) effective strategy of physical treatments for people with PN, and (c) task-dependent sensory information requirements. Therefore, this dissertation discussed the roles of foot sole sensation, ankle proprioception, and stretch reflex on balance as well as gait among people with PN. Furthermore, the discussion of the coupling between small and large afferent reflexive loops may spot the compensatory mechanism in people with PN.



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Committee Chair

Nelson, Arnold



Included in

Kinesiology Commons