The physiology of champions

December 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: Scientists develop new artificial ovary prototype

Related Stories

Scientists develop new artificial ovary prototype

December 13, 2017
Belgian researchers have taken important steps towards creating transplantable artificial ovaries. Once successful, these could be of value to women struggling with infertility or cancer patients who cannot conceive after ...

Experimental drug blocks toxic ion flow linked to Alzheimer's disease

December 5, 2017
An international team of researchers has shown that a new small-molecule drug can restore brain function and memory in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. The drug works by stopping toxic ion flow in the brain that is known ...

The human race has peaked

December 6, 2017
Humans may have reached their maximum limits for height, lifespan and physical performance. A recent review suggests humans have biological limitations, and that anthropogenic impacts on the environment - including climate ...

Researchers uncover genetic basis of natural variation in aging rate

November 10, 2017
Aging is characterized by a progressive decline in physiological functions and is a major risk factor for neurodegenerative disorders, cancer and diabetes. Previous studies on aging mainly focused on the regulation of longevity, ...

Predicting how healthy your heart will be years down the road

October 17, 2017
Picture this: you're battling heart failure and meeting with your doctor to discuss treatment. Before prescribing anything, the doctor pulls up a virtual model of your heart on her computer and "treats" it with several drugs. ...

Stress, fear of pain may be cause of painful sickle cell episodes

November 7, 2017
Mental stress and the anticipation of pain may cause blood vessels to narrow and trigger episodes of severe pain (vaso-occlusive crisis, or VOC) in sickle cell disease (SCD). A team of researchers from California will present ...

Recommended for you

Suicidal thoughts rapidly reduced with ketamine, finds study

December 14, 2017
Ketamine was significantly more effective than a commonly used sedative in reducing suicidal thoughts in depressed patients, according to researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). They also found that ketamine's ...

Do bullies have more sex?

December 14, 2017
Adolescents who are willing to exploit others for personal gain are more likely to bully and have sex than those who score higher on a measure of honesty and humility. This is according to a study in Springer's journal Evolutionary ...

Eating together as a family helps children feel better, physically and mentally

December 14, 2017
Children who routinely eat their meals together with their family are more likely to experience long-term physical and mental health benefits, a new Canadian study shows.

Children's screen-time guidelines too restrictive, according to new research

December 14, 2017
Digital screen use is a staple of contemporary life for adults and children, whether they are browsing on laptops and smartphones, or watching TV. Paediatricians and scientists have long expressed concerns about the impact ...

The iceberg model of self-harm

December 14, 2017
Researchers have created a model of self-harm that shows high levels of the problem in the community, especially in young girls, and the need for school-based prevention measures.

Anti-stress compound reduces obesity and diabetes

December 13, 2017
For the first time, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich could prove that a stress protein found in muscle has a diabetes promoting effect. This finding could pave the way to a completely new treatment ...

0 comments

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.