Skeletal muscle powers all animal movement. They are complex structures composed of multiple tissue types. Research in our lab focuses on understanding how all the elements work together to determine mechanisms of muscle and organism performance in healthy and diseased conditions.
Contractile connective tissue interactions in muscle
Skeletal muscle is composed of contractile elements which convert metabolic energy into force and power, and connective elements through which contractile elements must transmit force in order interact with the outside world. We currently attribute the force and power muscle can generate, and the energy it consumes, to actin and myosin. However, this approach cannot explain many aspects of muscle performance. In our lab, we are investigating the potential for the effects of force transmission by connective elements to explain some of these phenomena.
Muscle and locomotor performance decline with age. This is likely due to changes in both contractile and connective tissue elements. Our lab examines the changes in these tissues, and the changes to the interaction between them in order to both understand why muscle performance declines, and to learn about how healthy muscle should function.
Muscle recruitment and morphology
The amount of force or power a muscle generates can be varied by varying muscle recruitment. The total performance of a an animal will be determined by the recruitment of all the muscles involved in an activity. There are many possible combinations of recruitment of different muscles which would result in the same total performance, however, we currently have limited understanding of why any one recruitment strategy is chosen over another. Our lab is examining the recruitment strategies used to determine whether the variation in how contractile and connective tissue interact in different muscles, and how this interacts with how active a muscle is, influences recruitment patterns and therefore control of movement.