PSYCHOBIOLOGY OF ENDURANCE AND EXHAUSTION A NONLINEAR INTEGRATIVE APPROACH

Natàlia Balagué, Robert Hristovski, Pablo Vázquez, Agne Slapsinskaite

We review some of the findings from our research on psychobiological integration during endurance-based activities. A similar macroscopic nonlinear dynamics in psychomotor, psychological and physiological variables was observed during different types of exercise performed until exhaustion. These nonlinear effects correspond to those found in other studies that deal, for example, with gene expression cell dynamics which may generate and modify the phenotypic properties of athletes. These effects include bi-multistability, metastability, criticality and interaction dominant dynamics, as well as noise-induced transitions. With accumulated effort the system reduces the number of degrees of freedom and loses its initial flexibility on all studied levels, leading finally to task disengagement. The general ‘loss of stability’ mechanism is produced by a shift in the coordination between the basic biological processes of excitation and inhibition toward larger time scales. A redefinition of endurance and exhaustion is proposed on the basis of the nonlinear dynamic approach to psychobiological integration, and some practical applications for training interventions and training monitoring are suggested. It is likely that the application of nonlinear dynamics and statistical physics approaches may in the future form a comprehensive theory of endurance, encompassing multiple levels of biological organization within the same formal framework.

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