The physiology of champions

Dec 20, 2007

What could be a greater test of the limits of human physiology than the Olympics? To mark the 2008 games in Beijing, the Journal of Physiology present a special issue focusing on the science behind human athleticism and endurance.

This unique collection of original research and in-depth reviews examines the genes that make a champion, the physiology of elite athletes, limits to performance and how they might be overcome.

Excess body heat is a barrier to performance in many sports, and a novel study by Romain Meeusen et al. shows that both the neurotransmitter systems have an important impact on the control and perception of thermoregulation.

Rats whose dopaminergic and the noradrenergic reuptake was inhibited – by the anti-smoking aid Xyban – were able to exercise twenty minutes longer than usual in the sweltering heat and tolerated higher core body temperature.

What genes makes a champion, asked Alun Williams et al? They identify 23 individual genetic variations that enhance athletic performance — “If the optimum genetic combination existed in one person, world records like Paula Radcliffe’s would probably be shattered.”

Left to nature, the odds of anyone alive having all 23 variations is just 200,000:1. But what might the future hold for genetic manipulation and testing?

It’s no surprise that Marcus Amman et al. have shown that tiring out a leg muscle will subsequently reduce your performance in a 5km cycling time trial — but would you have guessed that it is ‘all in the mind’?

It is not the muscle’s own temporary weakness that reduces performance, they find, but instead the brain places an unconscious ‘brake’ on the central motor drive to the limbs and therefore regulates exercise performance.

The Journal of Physiology’s Olympic Special Issue will be published on 1 January 2008.

Source: Wiley-Blackwell

Explore further: Subconscious learning shapes pain responses

Related Stories

Architects to hatch Ecocapsule as low-energy house

47 minutes ago

Where people call home depends on varied factors, from poverty level to personal philosophy to vanity to community pressure. Ecocapsule appears to be the result of special factors, a team of architects applying ...

California farmers agree to drastically cut water use

4 hours ago

California farmers who hold some of the state's strongest water rights avoided the threat of deep mandatory cuts when the state accepted their proposal to voluntarily reduce consumption by 25 percent amid ...

Apple may deliver ways to rev up the iPad, report says

4 hours ago

MacRumors last month said that the latest numbers from market research firm IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker revealed Apple stayed on as the largest vendor in a declining tablet market. The iPad ...

Recommended for you

Subconscious learning shapes pain responses

May 22, 2015

In a new study led from Sweden's Karolinska Institutet, researchers report that people can be conditioned to associate images with particular pain responses – such as improved tolerance to pain – even ...

All sounds made equal in melancholy

May 22, 2015

The room is loud with chatter. Glasses clink. Soft music, perhaps light jazz or strings, fills the air. Amidst all of these background sounds, it can be difficult to understand what an adjacent person is ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.