Published on 13/01/2023
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Aston University scientists find mechanical stimulation could be used to prevent falls and strengthen muscles – research
Cdm hip fracture 343 credit: Booyabazooka
  • Researchers find mechanical stimulation could be used to help improve balance control
  • The findings provide new information on whole-body vibration applications
  • Paves the way for research on the interaction between the central nervous system and peripheral muscles.

Mechanical vibrations could help improve our muscles and our balance control, according to research at Aston University.

Researchers in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences have examined the effect of stimulation on muscle spindles which ‘speak’ to the central nervous system to help keep us upright and walk straight. 

Their results provide new perspectives on whole-body vibration applications, paving the way for future research on the interaction between the central nervous system and the peripheral muscles.

The research could in future be applied to improve balance in older people and help reduce falls, this could be applied through either wearable devices or with a daily session of stimulation. Hip fractures alone account for 1.8 million hospital bed days and £1.1 billion in hospital costs every year, excluding the high cost of social care. 

Another potential benefit of the research is that this type of stimulation could be applied to athletes to decrease their muscle reaction times.

The goal of the study was to find out if mechanical vibrations can improve the way our bodies process and react to small body oscillations. 

Seventeen young male and female adult volunteers aged between 20 and 28 years old stood individually on platforms, similar to vibrating plates found in gyms, which caused leg muscle contractions. Calf muscles were targeted as the muscles whose action contribute the most to maintaining a stable upright posture.

The researchers stimulated their calves with a frequency of 30Hz and recorded four one-minute trials of undisturbed balance to take a baseline measure and compared the readings to measurements taken after the stimulation. After conducting the experiment, they found that their balance seemed to have improved. 

The research, Sensorimotor recalibration of postural control strategies occurs after whole body vibration, was led by Dr Antonio Fratini, senior lecturer in mechanical, biomedical & design engineering, and PhD student Isotta Rigoni, and has been published in Scientific Reports – Nature. 

Dr Fratini said: “We’re excited by our results as they could have a beneficial effect on the health and quality of life of a large number of people. 

“Our results indicate that whole body vibration challenges balance at first, triggering a bigger effort to control the upright stance and shifting muscle modulation toward supraspinal control, resulting in a recalibration of muscle recruitment. The neuromuscular system seems to recover from such disruption and regain control over a longer time interval.”

“Indeed, while muscle recruitment and cortical effort appear unaltered over the long term, the balance seems not only restored but also improved, besides the still clearly affected calf muscles.”

For more information about our research or studying in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences please visit our website.

Notes to editors

The paper: Sensorimotor recalibration of postural control strategies occurs after whole body vibration.

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-27117-7

Authors: Rigoni Isotta Giulio Degano, Hassan Mahmoud, Fratini Antonio Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham, United Kingdom; EEG and Epilepsy Unit, Clinical Neuroscience Department, University Hospital and Faculty of Medicine of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland; University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland;  School of Technology, Department of Engineering, Reykjavik University, Iceland

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a university since 1966, Aston University is a long-established university led by its three main beneficiary groups – students, business and the professions, and the West Midlands region and wider society. Located in Birmingham at the heart of a vibrant city, the campus houses all the University’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Aleks Subic is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

Aston University is ranked 22 in the Guardian University Guide, based on measures including entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality and graduate prospects. The Aston Business School MBA programme was ranked in the top 100 in the world in the Economist MBA 2021 ranking.

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact Nicola Jones, Press and Communications Manager, on (+44) 7825 342091 or email:

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