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: Inhibited children become anxious adults: Examining the causes and effects of early shyness

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The science of anatomy is undergoing a revival

Apr 10, 2014

Only two decades ago, when I was starting my PhD studies at the University of California in Berkeley, there was talk about the death of anatomy as a research subject. That hasn't happened. Instead the science ...

Cow fertility – not so black and white

Feb 28, 2014

Holstein cattle - the black-and-white dairy cows you might see in a child's picture book - have been bred in northern Europe for hundreds of years. Over the last few decades, better management and selective breeding of the ...

Vitamin B12 accelerates worm development

Feb 13, 2014

Everyday our cells take in nutrients from food and convert them into the building blocks that make life possible. However, it has been challenging to pinpoint exactly how a single nutrient or vitamin changes ...

Recommended for you

Screenagers face troubling addictions from an early age

20 hours ago

In 1997, Douglas Rushkoff boldly predicted the emergence a new caste of tech-literate adolescents. He argued that the children of his day would soon blossom into "screenagers", endowed with effortless advantages over their parents, ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

New clinical trial launched for advance lung cancer

Cancer Research UK is partnering with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer – marking a new era of research into personalised medicines ...

Sony's PlayStation 4 sales top seven million

Sony says it has sold seven million PlayStation 4 worldwide since its launch last year and admitted it can't make them fast enough, in a welcome change of fortune for the Japanese consumer electronics giant.