Study of leaping toads reveal the mechanisms that protect muscles
Most people are impressed by how a toad jumps. UC Irvine biologist Emanuel Azizi is more impressed by how one lands.
“Toads are ideal for studying jumping and landing because they’re so good at it,” he noted. “This work is providing the basic science on how muscles respond during high-impact behaviors like landing or falling.”
They discovered that during landing, toads’ muscles adapt to the varying intensity of impact. As the creatures hop over longer distances, their landing muscles increasingly shorten in anticipation of larger impacts.
This pattern indicates that rapid and coordinated responses of the nervous system can act to protect muscles from injury, said Azizi, who added that future efforts will be aimed at understanding what sensory information is used to modulate these responses.
Azizi’s findings on the underlying function of muscle control, he said, could one day improve rehabilitation programs for people with neuromuscular deficiencies.
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