How Flamingos Stand on One Leg and Other Reasons to Study Comparative Neuromechanics

A Frontiers in Science Lecture by Young-Hui Chang, hosted by the School of Biological Sciences

ABSTRACT 

Visit a flamingo exhibit at any zoo and you are likely to hear a child ask, “Why do flamingos stand one one leg?”

This basic, child-like drive to understand the curiosities of the world is part of human nature, and it is fundamental to science. But asking “why” a flamingo stands on one leg is a difficult and esoteric pursuit. In contrast, trying to understand “how” a flamingo can stand on one leg is directly addressable through physiology, the study of life’s processes. Moreover, gaining knowledge about how a behavior works often leads to important insights on why it persists in nature.

Young-Hui Chang will discuss how neuromechanics is used to distinguish biomechanical and neural mechanisms to inform our understanding of limb control. For example, the recent discovery of a passive biomechanical mechanism in flamingo legs explains how standing on one leg may actually require less neuromuscular effort than standing on two legs.

Chang will also discuss how a comparative approach helped identify a common limb compensation strategy many animals use to control and stabilize locomotion. The basic knowledge gained from comparative neuromechanics research can ultimately be used to better the human condition through development of improved training practices to enhance performance of limb prosthesis users, railroad workers, and even athletes. 

ABOUT THE SPEAKER 

Young-Hui Chang is a professor  in the School Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech. His research interests lie broadly in studying how humans and other animals use their limbs to control movement. In addition to flamingos, he has had the fortune to work with a variety of animals, including gibbons, vampire bats, elephants, penguins, and horses. Chang also strives to answer societal problems associated with movement control in people with debilitating conditions.

In 2009, he received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for his research related to locomotor compensation in persons with lower-limb amputation. 

ABOUT FRONTIERS IN SCIENCE LECTURES

Lectures in this series are intended to inform, engage, and inspire students, faculty, staff, and the public on developments, breakthroughs, and topics of general interest in the sciences and mathematics. Lecturers tailor their talks for nonexpert audiences.

Parking is available in the Visitors Lot on the south side of North Avenue, across Tech Tower.

Light refreshments will be served after the lecture.

Event Details

Date/Time:

  • Thursday, October 19, 2017
    7:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Location: Clary Theater, Bill Moore Student Success Center, 225 North Ave. NW, Atlanta, GA 30332

Related Media

Click on image(s) to view larger version(s)

  • Young-Hui Chang

  • A flamingo at Zoo Atlanta. (Photo by Adam Thompson/Zoo Atlanta.)

For More Information Contact

A. Maureen Rouhi, Ph.D.
Director of Communications
College of Sciences