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New Human CR Study: Neuromuscular Function

Michael R

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The CR Society International is excited to report our collaboration with Dr. Eric James, Associate Professor in the Center for Gerontology Research and Partnerships in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, to perform a new human calorie restriction study focused on the effects of CR on neuromuscular function in humans.


Calorie restriction (CR) is known to extend lifespan and reduce the risk of age-related disease and disability in a wide range of organisms. In particular, calorie restriction has been found to have beneficial effects on motor function in rodents and nonhuman primates.  A calorie restricted diet has been shown to increase locomotor activity (Ingram et al., 1987; Means et al., 1993; Dubey et al., 1996), and to improve sensorimotor performance, motor learning (Gould et al., 1995) and both uni- and bi-manual fine motor performance (Kastman et al., 2010; Lacreuse & Herndon, 2003; Lacreuse et al., 2005a; Sridharan et al., 2012; Zhang et al., 2000). Dr. Roy Walford, a pioneering scientist in biogerontology and the science of CR in particular, and an advocate for human CR practice who cofounded the CR Society, advocated reflex and other neuromuscular tests as self-gauged biomarkers of the anti-aging effects of one’s CR practice. However, there has been no systematic study of the effects of CR on neuromuscular function in humans.


Dr. James has a focus on neuromuscular function in aging. Loss of balance with age, as an example, is a principal contributor to the risk of falls and therefore of hip fracture with age. While much of the focus on fracture risk is on osteoporosis, falls are the precipitating event for nearly all hip fractures, and cause both fracture-related and -unrelated injury in older adults. The incidence of falls rises steadily after middle age, reaching its peak amongst persons over the age of 80; overall, the risk of falling amongst free-living persons over the age of 65 is about one in three every year, with risk rising as aging progresses. Falls cause considerable mortality and morbidity, and risk of fall-related mortality increases dramatically with advancing age, with approximately three quarters of fall-related deaths in the United States occurring in persons over the age of 65. Interventions that could reduce the risk of falls with age are therefore of great potential value for sustaining functionality, independence, and life with age.

In this context, Dr. James is working with the CR Society International to perform the first human study of the effects of CR on neuromuscular function. Specifically, the objective of this project is to examine the potential beneficial effects of long-term calorie restriction on motor control learning in humans.  In this study, long-term CR practitioners and age-matched control subjects will perform a battery of motor and psychomotor tasks including balance, gait, mobility, bimanual and postural coordination tasks.

Phase 1 of this project will consist of pilot testing of older participants on assessments of postural control, balance, mobility, manual and bimanual motor performance.  When initial data from Phase 1 becomes available, the Principal Investigator (Dr. James) will seek external funding to support Phase 2 of testing.  Phase 2 testing will include longitudinal testing of a broader range of motor and psychomotor tasks and a wider age range of participants.  Individuals of all ages are encouraged to express their interest in participation at this time.  The compilation of a list of potential participants will be used to support the application for external funding to continue with Phase 2 of the project.

For Phase 1, research participants will need to travel to the University of Massachusetts Campus for 1 day of data collection.  Phase 1 testing will begin with participants who live closer to the Lowell, MA area and then expand outward.  The total length of data collection will be approximately 2 hours.  Participation will consist of performing moderate-to-low intensity tasks such as balance on 1 leg, walking overground and on a treadmill for 10 minutes and completing computer-based and/or paper tests of reaction time and executive function.  Compensation will be available for time and travel expenses.  Continued participation in Phase 2 of testing at a later date to be determined is encouraged but will be optional.

The specific aims of this project are to examine the effects of long-term calorie restriction on human: a) motor control; (b) motor learning; c) psychomotor task performance; d) mobility decline and disability risk; and e) cognitive function.

An application for Independent Review Board (IRB) approval at the University of Massachusetts Lowell has been submitted for this study.  Data collection will begin in early 2015 when IRB approval has been obtained.  The Informed Consent for study participation will be forwarded to interested individuals.  Data collection will take place in the Human Assessment Lab at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, MA.

We are now recruiting subjects for the Phase I study. While Phase I will focus on older subjects and subjects nearer to the Lowell, MA study site, all interested subjects with a long-term history of good adherence to a CR diet are encouraged to apply. Please contact CR Society VP for Research, Michael Rae, to volunteer as a study subject or for further questions. Applicants should include their age, place of residence, and duration of CR practice.

On behalf of the CR Society International, we are happy to advance this invitation and enthusiastic to carry on research on the human science of CR. Forward!


Michael Rae

Vice President for Research

CR Society International




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  • 3 weeks later...

As a reminder/update:  We're still looking for new subject volunteers! This is an opportunity to find out what CR is doing in your own body, and to advance the scientific knowledge of the human practice of CR. Will CR protect neuromuscular function in humans, as it does in rodents? This is how we find out!

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