Exploring How the Neuromuscular System Recruits Muscles and Motor Units

Exploring How the Neuromuscular System Recruits Muscles and Motor Units

This is purely an exploration of how the neuromuscular system of one individual solves the control problem of loaded, isometric, shoulder abduction at 90 degrees. I used surface electromyography (sEMG) to investigate how the nervous system orchestrates the recruitment of motor units and muscles to generate the torque needed to control joint position. This is not a scientific study anymore than playing a scale is a symphony or mixing paint is art or counting to 12 makes one a personal trainer. This is an expression of my current understanding of the technology, anatomy, physiology, mathematics, and literature related to the neuromuscular system and surface electromyography. 

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Muscle Group P.O.T.E.N.T.I.A.L.

Muscle Group P.O.T.E.N.T.I.A.L.

One of the fascinating and critical characteristics of muscle is that, when healthy, it can generate variable amounts of tension at variable lengths. That may sound like a very simple thing, but that range of variable force generation is what allows you to move precisely and adapt to unaccustomed forces/motion. I’m calling this characteristic Muscle Group P.O.T.E.N.T.I.A.L.

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Evolve: Overcoming the Pernicious Backfire Effect

Evolve: Overcoming the Pernicious Backfire Effect

It hurts to be wrong: literally. It's just part of the way our brains have evolved to work. Neuroscientists observed that the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain that processes physical pain, is active when the subject was shown evidence that proved they were wrong (3,4). So yes, it hurts to be wrong. This helps to explain a confounding reality of human thinking called the backfire effect. 

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A call for rational, empirical exploration: quality information leads to quality implementation.

A call for rational, empirical exploration: quality information leads to quality implementation.

An interesting, published discourse regarding Manual Muscle Testing is the subject of this article. It is a great example of how rational discourse brings greater clarity to a subject. Disagreement is fine. Being wrong is fine. Both are necessary. The question is, once you have greater insight, are you willing, courageous, and inventive enough to alter your behavior, actions, and decisions? Or will you do what is easier and more familiar even if it is riskier and less advantageous? 

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In Pursuit of the Great White Whale: Getting Rapid and Acute Increases in Joint Motion and Control to “Hold"

In Pursuit of the Great White Whale: Getting Rapid and Acute Increases in Joint Motion and Control to “Hold"

 I spent the better part of a decade trying to create permanent changes in joint motion and control (muscular participation/strength). In other words, I was trying to find or learn a way to make the acute changes in joint motion and strength that I observed “hold”. Perhaps you can identify with this scenario.

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Progress requires the tenacious pursuit of understanding. How much do you trust science?

Progress requires the tenacious pursuit of understanding. How much do you trust science?

Invoking the name of science is a potent way to assure people of the validity of a method, product, service, or idea. When we read or hear "scientifically proven, science says, or scientists report, etc." there is typically a degree a trust and acceptance of the findings. For some topics, however, it would appear that people do not trust to the conclusions drawn by scientific exploration.  How much do you trust science?

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Getting the Most From Your Muscle Head. Or is that Head Muscle?

Getting the Most From Your Muscle Head. Or is that Head Muscle?

What does it take to change your body and mind? 

Physical activities shape your body by stimulating the tissues to adapt. It turns out that physical activity also shapes your brain. The crux of the matter is that the brain adapts specifically to how the activity is done. Under specific conditions, contracting muscles produce hormones that can change the structure of your brain and therefore, the products of your mind.

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Got Muscle?

Got Muscle?

What all strengthening systems and forms of exercise have in common.

From yoga to bodybuilding, Pilates to Crossfit, all systems of force application stimulate change in the performance of muscle, e.g. how much tension the muscle can generate and for how long, how quickly it can generate tension, how much it can change length, etc. 

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That's a Mighty Fine Brain You Have There. What is it for?

That's a Mighty Fine Brain You Have There. What is it for?

There are a growing number of neuroscientists whom believe that our brains are big and complex compared to other species because our brains support a complexity of motion unrivaled by other species. Neuroscientist Dan Wolpert of University of Cambridge, puts it like this, "I would argue that we have a brain for one reason and one reason only. And that's to produce adaptable and complex movement. There is no other reason to have a brain. [...] Things like sensory, memory and cognitive processes are all important, but they are only important to drive movement."

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Training Your Body is Training Your Mind

Training Your Body is Training Your Mind

I enjoy moving my body in a variety of ways: trail running, climbing, weight training, biking, swimming, mountaineering, playing games, etc. I find it satisfying to experience the challenges that these activities present and the strength, speed, agility, and skill required to manage those challenges. Some days the challenges feel more inspiring than others, but the idea is to always strive for improvement in some way. About 9 years ago, I began to wonder if there were ways to train the mind to be more flexible, creative, pleasurable, and less irritable. To my delight, I found several wonderful tools to train my mind. What surprised me was that training my mind made me question how I trained my body. I began to wonder if the "more is better", "always strive for improvement", "good things come to those that suffer", "go hard or go home" mentality that accompanied my physical training was necessary to achieve my goals. I also wondered if there are consequences to training within that context.

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Tight Hamstrings: A Necessary Characteristic of Eccentric Hip Flexion

Tight Hamstrings: A Necessary Characteristic of Eccentric Hip Flexion

 

I love heights; under certain conditions. As long as I am wearing my climbing harness that is tied into one end of the rope and the other end of the rope is secure in a bomber anchor, I feel good. If I am not tied in or if I have any doubts about my anchor, my stomach turns, I get tense, and cranky. When rappelling over the side of a cliff, the scariest moment is when there is still slack in the section of rope between me and the anchor, I have to step backward and lean over the edge of the cliff to put tension on the rappelling rope.

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Jacques's Story

Jacques's Story

I developed a passion for neuroscience when I was 11 years old. I was inspired by a man who attended my childhood church who wore a prothetic arm. At the end of it were two metal hooks/pincers for his hand. I wanted to design an artificial limb that looked like a hand, could detect hold and cold objects and whose motion could be controlled by the brain of the wearer. It was a project that I remember as if were yesterday because it embodied a core value that my family promulgates: be of service to your community. This early exploration of the nervous system and it's interaction with the muscular system and the rest of the body lead to my life-long fascination with the nervous system.

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