Neuromechanics Laboratory


a lab researcher looks at a computer monitor that displays some analysis readings
a student researcher is at a keyboard entering information while a student in the background is walking on a treadmill with wearing a head apparatus.
A lab researcher smiles on as an individual performs a one-arm curl with a flexible band

Our scope

Focus

Using biomechanical and imaging technologies to assess adaptations to skeletal muscle and human performance to a variety of modalities.

Emphasis

Examining the effects of childhood obesity and exercise on skeletal muscle lipids and function, motor unit activity, and physical performance.

Collaborations & Services

  • The Applied Physiology (PI: Dr. Philip Gallagher) and Jayhawk Athletic Performance (Dr. Andrew Fry) Labs are a part of the Osness Human Performance Laboratories housed in the Department of Health, Sport, and Exercise Sciences.
  • Energy Balance Research Project (PI: Dr. Robin Shook) is a part of the Center of Children’s Healthy Lifestyles and Nutrition at Children’s at Mercy Kansas City.
  • Dr. John Thyfault’s Lab in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Researcher Team


Opportunities for Students & Fellow Researchers

  • The influence of myosin heavy chain isoform content and proprioceptive information on motor unit behavior;
  • Neuromuscular performance across the life span, including young children;
  • Effects of chronic endurance and resistance training on neuromuscular function; and
  • The neuromuscular function of overweight/obese children.

Testing Capabilities & Equipment

The quality of the information recorded from the muscle by electrodes placed on the surface of the skin has improved considerably in the past decade due to significant advancements in signal processing techniques. In the Neuromechanics Laboratory, researchers have had a particular interest in developing a model with surface mechanomyography that has been able to distinguish myosin heavy chain isoform content between individuals, which could potentially be a great tool to help with the diagnoses of sarcopenia.

In addition, researchers have utilized traditional monopolar and bipolar surface electromyography techniques to monitor motor units’ action potentials that activate skeletal muscle fibers. With traditional electromyography, we have examined the effects of various modalities (i.e., vibration, stretching, fatigue, etc.) on muscle activation (time and frequency domains of the signal). More recently, technology has been developed that allows for the decomposition of surface electromyography signals into individual motor unit action potential trains during isometric muscle actions. With such information, we have the ability to examine the firing rate characteristics of single motor units. Subsequently, we have determined that the firing rate characteristics of motor units are strongly influenced by myosin heavy chain isoform content, training status (resistance- vs. aerobically-trained), and neuromuscular disease (acute spinal poliomyelitis).

The current direction of the Neuromechanics Laboratory will be to use these capabilities to examine the influence myosin heavy chain isoform content, acute and chronic adaptations to exercise, and aging on motor unit activation strategies. Furthermore, we have begun to study neuromuscular performance and motor unit behavior in overweight and/or obese children.