Neuromechanics Laboratory

The Neuromechanics Lab​ is part of the Osness Human Performance Laboratories housed in the Department of Health, Sport, and Exercise Sciences.

Mission & Vision

Combined with the focus areas of the adjacent Applied Physiology Laboratory, the Neuromechanics Laboratory uses biomechanical tools and technologies to assess human muscle performance and physiological responses and adaptations to a variety of modalities. Currently under the direction of Dr. Trent Herda, the Neuromechanics Laboratory has a particular emphasis on examining the effects of contractile properties of muscle (myosin heavy chain isoform content), resistance exercise, fatigue, aging, vibration, and passive stretching on many neuromuscular and biomechanical parameters. 

Background

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 at the University of Kansas (Lawrence campus), we 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, we 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.

On-going Projects

1) The influence of myosin heavy chain isoform content and proprioceptive information on motor unit behavior.

2) Neuromuscular performance across the life span, including young children.

3) Effects of chronic endurance and resistance training on neuromuscular function.

4) The neuromuscular function of overweight/obese children.

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