Human Movement Control/Performance


Richard K. Shields, PT, PhD

Contact Information


0716B University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics - (319)356-8203

Medical Education Building - (319)335-9801

Current Research Projects

Neuromusculoskeletal Plasticity following Spinal Cord Injury

The effects of disuse from spinal cord injury are studied with respect to skeletal changes (bone density), muscular adaptations, fatigue, contractile properties (fiber type), and reflex excitability (H-reflex, withdrawal reflex). The extent to which these adaptations are influenced by training under acute and chronic conditions are examined during longitudinal and cross-sectional studies.

Electrical and Mechanical Stress on Post-SCI Muscle and Bone

The objective of this project is to determine whether mechanical loads induced via electrical stimulation, mechanical oscillation, or the combination thereof can trigger genetic changes and preservation of bone mineral density after SCI.  The study examines both the short term (1 bout) and long term (6 months) effects of these types of training.

Novel Intervention to Influence Muscle Plasticity in Veterans with SCI

The long-term goal of this project is to establish the optimal dose of muscle and bone stress during functional exercise in order to improve the health of veterans with complete paralysis.  Outcomes include muscle physiologic performance, adaptations of genes that regulate atrophy and muscle fiber type, systemic markers of inflammation and insulin regulation.

Mechanical Stress and Skeletal Plasticity after Spinal Cord Injury in Humans

The objective of this project is to determine whether mechanically induced stress, via compression of vibration, in the absence of electrically-evoked muscle contractions, can maintain bone integrity longitudinally after SCI.  The long term aim is to develop therapies to enhance bone integrity in subacute and chronic SCI, including individuals who cannot electrically activate their musculature.

Cortical Excitable and Motor Learning

The objective is to test if novel movement tasks, with unexpected perturbations, enhance motor learning in individuals with compromised human performance (aging, athletes due to injury, CNS disorders, fatigue).

Heat Stress and Protective Extracellular Chaperones

The goal of this project is to examine if passive heat stress, with and without various doses of exercise, may enhance protective proteins associated with cell health.  We are examining if these interventions impact insulin sensitivity in humans who are sedentary.

Current Funding

  • NIH R01 NR-010285
  • NIH R01 HD-062507
  • Craig H. Neilsen Foundation
  • VA Merit Grant