Perseverance: HKR researcher ramping up research on fatigue

Oct 16th, 2018

Andrea Kelly

Perseverance: HKR researcher ramping up research on fatigue

Fatigue is a symptom that plagues people from an annoying limitation to an outright debilitating state. Dr. Duane Button, associate professor with the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, is driven to explore how people fatigue and if the threshold for fatigue can be shifted.

Dr. Button’s research efforts are being noticed, and he has received a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grant of $25,000 per year for five years to study fatigue with his research students.

How and why we fatigue is complicated.

“Fatigue is the inability for the body to maintain force and power output over time,” said Dr. Button. “First we need to understand how fatigue works in a healthy population. Once we have that level of understanding we can move on to applying our knowledge to other populations.”

The results of this research could have implications for many people, including those who are recovering from stroke or living with multiple sclerosis, metabolic syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome. It could also support sports training, sports medicine and occupational safety.

Enduring fatigue

Dr. Button’s study will focus on examining how the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord, responds to intense upper body cycling intervals. Repeated sprint exercise will be monitored to measure muscle activity in the arms, shoulders and back and corresponding activity in the central nervous system.

“One goal is to see if we can shift when fatigue is experienced over time,” said Dr. Button. “For instance, with training, is it possible to enhance our system so we can endure more fatigue? Or can we increase our output?”

Dr. Button acknowledges it will take a team to address these and other research questions. He believes in the importance of building capacity for the future.

“Central to this research is training and mentoring students to help them become highly qualified personnel,” he said. “I encourage all my research students to share their findings. Every single student has been an author on a peer reviewed publication. Many have attended and presented at national and international conferences, and some have even won awards for their work.”

Ongoing support

In fact, Dr. Button, a Memorial graduate of the B.Kin. and MPE programs, credits his recent success in landing NSERC funding to the ongoing support he has received from the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation and Memorial University.

Since joining the faculty compliment in 2010, he has received support from the Seed, Bridge and Multidisciplinary Fund twice. This funding enabled Dr. Button to conduct preliminary research leading toward his current work.

Dr. Button is a co-lead researcher in the human neurophysiology lab at the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation. Since 2012, more than 30 graduate students have been building on research conducted to the research at the human neurophysiology lab.