The mission of the MS program in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology with a concentration in Biobehavioral Science is to prepare individuals for doctoral study in biobehavioral sciences, or to obtain private sector employment in the area of human biobehavioral evaluation.
The program of study is developed by the student and the advisory committee based on the student’s background, interests, and career goals, as well as faculty expertise.
By design, the program is multidisciplinary and flexible, permitting students to tailor their scholarly experience to the development of research skills in one of several related disciplines: biomechanics, motor control and learning, and exercise and performance psychology. Each area of specialization is briefly described below:
Biomechanics is the scientific study of humans and objects as they move and interact with the environment. It is a multi-disciplinary field drawing from exercise science, engineering, medicine and manufacturing. Biomechanics is a high technology field that applies this expertise to athletic, clinical, legal, and commercial areas. The course work offered within this concentration allows the student to experience a wide variety of biomechanical studies or focus on specific areas such as sport or clinical applications to best meet the individual interests of the student.
The mission of the specialization in Biomechanics is to prepare individuals for doctoral study in Biomechanics or to obtain private sector employment in the area of human movement evaluation. The program places an emphasis on research and laboratory experiences and demands mastery of advanced technology to solve movement-based problems. Coursework will include the study of the kinematics and kinetics of animal movement. Classroom experiences will include, but not be limited to, study in anatomy/kinesiology, biomechanics, engineering, medicine, physical therapy, and statistics. Additional areas of study will focus on developing research and laboratory skills, understanding motor performance and the control of motor actions.
Historically, the study of Biomechanics in colleges such as HHP has focused on its application to sports in efforts to increase performance and decrease injuries. Our goal is to expand that traditional view to include exposure to biomechanical applications in the medical and industrial arenas. This expansion will provide students with a wider range of opportunities to prepare them for their future studies or provide additional opportunities for employment at the completion of their MS degree.
Motor Control & Learning:
Motor learning is concerned with the processes and variables that influence skill acquisition. Studies involve manipulating a process or variable that typically directly affects the rate that a motor skill is acquired and how it is retained over time. Learning is examined in various situations with a variety of movement tasks and with diverse groups of participants for our research. For example, we have investigated the ability of the elderly to learn a force production task in which the movements were similar to picking up a glass of water from the table. Currently, a funded project is devoted to helping stroke patients re-acquire voluntary arm movements. These and many other types of studies relate motor learning concepts and principles to acquiring a movement capability.
Motor control is concerned with the mechanisms involved in performing coordinated movements. Leading questions and explanations arise from studies on coordination. Understanding how people are able to move their arms through space to be at the right place at the right time to execute a coordinated action is still meager. Topics studied in our laboratory include bimanual movements, problems associated with initiating movements in those with Parkinson’s disease, the force production of stroke patients, and fractionated reaction times of stroke patients.
Exercise & Performance Psychology:
Exercise and Performance Psychology provides the basis for understanding and influencing the underlying thought processes and attitudes that will ultimately determine the performance of individuals involved in sport, exercise, and other achievement oriented activities. The emphasis of the Exercise and Performance Psychology concentration of the MS degree is to prepare students for doctoral study. Consequently, the primary focus is to develop the scientific background and skills necessary for doctoral training and research. However, teachers, coaches, athletes, athletic trainers, and recreational sport leaders will acquire relevant expertise in the area, as will those who wish to work in health clubs and fitness programs.
Major topics related to Exercise Psychology include describing and understanding the precursors to participating in exercise, motivational aspects associated with maintaining exercise, and the psychological benefits that occur due to participation in exercise programs. Research themes in the exercise area include understanding the acute and chronic mood changes associated with exercise participation, the anxiolytic effects of exercise, exercise adherence issues, and understanding problems associated with body image distortion, eating disorders, and exercise dependence.
Major topics related to Performance Psychology include a cognitive emphasis on understanding the development of the attention, anticipation, decision-making, and reacting skills necessary for expert performance in self-paced as well as unpredictable rapidly occurring events. Determining the role of emotions in altering attentional allocation and the movement parameters that underlie coordinated motor actions is of paramount interest. Research in these areas has been facilitated by the recent laboratory additions of technologically advanced instrumentation used for psychophysiological assessment of brain wave activity and visual search patterns. The social-cognitive influence is also prevalent as exemplified by studies of achievement motivation, emotional reactivity and regulation, individual differences, and personality.
Given the development of Exercise and Performance Psychology as fields that emphasize science and practice, courses are offered that are relevant to developing proficiency in both areas. Our approach tends to be weighted to the science aspect of the discipline, with the notion that understanding the scientific basis for intervention will enable practitioners to more effectively impart beneficial information to performers.
Research: 6 credits minimum
Concentration Courses: 12 credits minimum
Courses that are reflective of the specific area of specialization in the Biobehavioral Science specialization will be selected and approved by the supervisory committee. Additionally the thesis topic will directly reflect the area of specialization within the Biobehavioral Science concentration.
Elective Courses: 6 credits minimum