Comparative approaches to understanding the neuromechanics of posture and movement
T. Richard Nichols: Professor of Applied Physiology, Georgia Tech University
The organization and function of force feedback in quadrupeds
Thomas Roberts: Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University
How elastic mechanisms shape muscle function during movement
Timothy Cope: Professor of Applied Physiology, Georgia Tech University
From Human to Rat and Back Again: Discovering and Treating Sensory Disorders Induced by Chemotherapy
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T. Richard Nichols: The organization and function of force feedback in quadrupeds
Comparative studies have illuminated the function of proprioceptive pathways in motor coordination. Combined biomechanical and neurophysiological investigations have shown a broadly distributed network of pathways from Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles that appears to regulate the mechanical properties of limbs in a task dependent manner. This network is disrupted following spinal cord injury in a way that is consistent with the observed motor deficits. The distributed nature of these pathways has made it difficult to evaluate the functions of proprioceptive networks in humans, but animal studies are being used to develop and validate a new, less invasive method that could be employed to investigate force feedback in freely moving animals and in humans.
Tom Roberts: How elastic mechanisms shape muscle function during movement
A central theme from studies of animal locomotion is that muscles provide diverse mechanical functions. Muscles produce power, like a motor, but also act as brakes, struts, and dampers. Sarcomeres are capable of all of these functions, but only within a relatively narrow range of performance. Comparative studies have shown us that the elastic structures associated with muscles are essential to the wide range of locomotor performance seen in nature, and have highlighted the cooperative nature of muscle and elastic tissue mechanics. Tendon springs enhance muscle power output, aid in the safe dissipation of energy, and reduce the metabolic cost of movement. Our recent work has turned to the significance of the spring-like function of the collagenous scaffold within muscles, which may also store and recover energy during movement.
Tim Cope: From Human to Rat and Back Again: Discovering and Treating Sensory Disorders Induced by Chemotherapy
Whereas the chemotherapeutic agent oxaliplatin (OX) has great success as the standard of care for treating gastrointestinal cancers, its neurological side effects can be debilitating and require limiting or even discontinuing OX treatment. In an adult rat model which enables invasive examination of possible mechanisms, we made the novel discovery that OX produces a lasting distortion of sensory encoding by muscle proprioceptors. From this observation we moved in two directions. One was to perform behavioral studies of our rat model in which we found movement disorders characterized as proprioceptive and reproducing patient diagnoses. The other was to search for the cellular mechanism, which led us to impaired function of ion channels in muscle proprioceptors and subsequently to a pharmacological means for restoring sensory encoding to normal. We are now in position to initiate clinical trials to test the possibility that OX-induced impairment of proprioceptive function might be treatable or possibly even prevented.