Is it Time to Retire the ‘Central Governor’?
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- Shephard, R.J. Sports Med (2009) 39: 709. doi:10.2165/11315130-000000000-00000
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Over the past 13 years, Noakes and his colleagues have argued repeatedly for the existence of a ‘Central Governor’, a specific brain centre that provides a feed-forward regulation of the intensity of vigorous effort in order to conserve homeostasis, protecting vital organs such as the brain, heart and skeletal muscle against damage from hyperthermia, ischaemia and other manifestations of catastrophic failure. This brief article reviews evidence concerning important corollaries of the hypothesis, examining the extent of evolutionary pressures for the development of such a mechanism, the effectiveness of protection against hyperthermia and ischaemia during exhausting exercise, the absence of peripheral factors limiting peak performance (particularly a plateauing of cardiac output and oxygen consumption) and proof that electromyographic activity is limiting exhausting effort. As yet, there is a lack of convincing experimental evidence to support these corollaries of the hypothesis; furthermore, some findings, such as the rather consistent demonstration of an oxygen consumption plateau in young adults, argue strongly against the limiting role of a ‘Central Governor’.