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: New insights into eyewitness memory from groundbreaking replication initiative

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Engineering light-controlled proteins

Jul 03, 2014

(Phys.org) —A University of Wyoming professor has engineered proteins that can be activated by near-infrared light as a way to control biological activities in deep tissues of small mammals.

You can't teach speed: sprinters break 10-year rule

Jun 26, 2014

New research shows world-class sprinters are born, not created. Grand Valley State University researchers found that exceptional speed prior to formal training is a prerequisite for becoming a world-class ...

Recommended for you

Mother-daughter research team studies severe-weather phobia

Sep 19, 2014

No one likes severe weather, but for some just the thought of a thunderstorm, tornado, hurricane or blizzard can severely affect their lives. When blood pressures spike, individuals obsessively monitor weather forecasts and ...

Study: Pupil size shows reliability of decisions

Sep 18, 2014

Te precision with which people make decisions can be predicted by measuring pupil size before they are presented with any information about the decision, according to a new study published in PLOS Computational Bi ...

User comments : 0