Ref. 2018Health7

On-line application form

Supervisor name and surname:
Armando Malanda Trigueros

Supervisor mail

Description of the research project:

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal degenerative disease characterized by the progressive loss of motor-neurons, that usually lasts 2-5 years during which the patience suffers a severe disability due to progressive muscular weakness and loss of dexterity. Nowadays there exists no effective treatment but only a few drugs which can moderately slow down its rapid progress. ALS diagnosis is based in its clinical presentation and no unique or definitive confirmatory test exists.

Motor-neurons are responsible for transmitting orders of voluntary contraction from the brain to muscle fibers by means of electrical impulses. When muscle fibers receive these impulses they contract and a time-varying electrical field is produced. An electrode placed near the active fibers will detect a train of motor unit potentials (MUPs). MUP analysis can provide useful information regarding the fibers and motor-neurons active during a contraction.

As a motor unit dies, its fibers become orphaned (denervated), and some of these denervated fibers are taken over by nearby healthy motor neurons (reinnervated); at this stage the waveforms of a MUP train will show noticeable variations in shape (MUP instability). The measurement of MUP instability is a clear sign of muscle reinnervation in ALS and can provide support for its detection and follow-up, supplementing clinical analysis.

Currently, only a few measures of MUP instability have been proposed, and only one, called ‘jiggle’, published in 1994, has gained some clinical acceptance. A thorough and comparative study of the existing measurers of MUP instability is lacking, as such their strengths and weakness are not well understood. The main objective of this research project is to test comparatively the existing measures of MUP instability and possibly propose more advanced ones.

The accurate and reliable measurement of MUP instability is relevant in clinical evaluation, as it may help in the early recognition of ALS, permitting a better treatment of its symptoms and minimizing the distressful false positives.

On the other side, different treatments are being investigated using ALS animal models (mice genetically manipulated to mimic the disease). Measurements of MUP instability can also be useful here for the early detection and monitoring of disease progression.

To test existing and newly proposed measures three different test-beds will be used:

  • Synthetic ALS signals with different degrees of MUP instability, generated by an EMG signal simulator developed at UPNA.
  • A database of ALS and non-ALS EMG signals provided at the Neurophysiology Service at the Navarre Hospital Complex (CHN).
  • Signals from ALS animal models acquired at the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Zaragoza (UZ).

In the development of this research, the student will interact with specialists in EMG signal analysis from UPNA and the University of Waterloo and specialists in EMG clinical studies at the CHN. He/she will also participate in recording and analyzing EMG data from animal models at UZ. It is the combination of these three branches of expertise that may effectively lead to measures useful for clinical diagnosis and the testing of new therapeutic drugs

PHD Programme:
Doctorate in Communication Technologies, Bioengineering and Renewal Energies
Public University of Navarre

Supervisor short biography:

Armando Malanda Trigueros was born in Madrid, Spain, and graduated in Telecommunication Engineering at the Madrid Polytechnic University in 1992. In 1999 he received his Ph.D. degree from the Carlos III University, Madrid. In 1992 he joined the Public University of Navarra. In 2003 he became Associate Professor in the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Department of this University. He is currently the Director of the Master of Biomedical Engineering of this University. His areas of interest comprise the analysis, modeling and simulation of bioelectrical signals, particularly EEG and EMG.

Title of the research project:

Novel EMG-based techniques for the diagnosis and prognosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Gross annual salary:

22.000-26.000 €

The employment contract in each recruiting institution will apply internal rules so final retribution might slightly differ.

Working hours:
37,5 hours a week

Full time