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John Brackenbury PhD

University Lecturer
Tel: +44 (0)1223 333847, Fax: +44 (0)1223 333786, E-mail:

Biomechanics and the Control of Movement

Exercise imposes great stress on an organism and affects nearly every physiological system in the body. We are examining two aspects of this problem, in birds and insects.
1) In collaboration with the Technion, Haifa and John Moores University, Liverpool an investigation is being carried out into the effects of exercise on thermoregulation and cardiovascular dynamics in domestic fowl. These studies address the practical problems of heat stress, due to environmental hyperthermia and hyperactivity, experienced in commercial flocks. Heat stress in turn reduces fertility and egg-yield, and the study is directed towards identifying the physiological mechanisms underlying these interactions.
2) A study of targeted movements in insects is being carried out with a view to understanding the biomechanical and visual constraints placed on precision motor tasks. Insects are capable of extremely rapid, guided movements, and the study is demonstrating novel mechanisms to increase the speed and accuracy in such tasks. The investigation involves the use of specially-designed, high-speed photographic and videographic techniques.

Main Collaborators
Dr Hugh Hunt (Cambridge, Engineering)
Dr Zeev Arad (Technion, Haifa)
Dr Mahmoud El-Sayed (John Moores University, Liverpool)

Selected publications
In the Blink of an Eye. David and Charles Publishers, 2007

Brackenbury, J.H. (2002), KInematics and hydrodynamics of an invertebrate undulatory swimmer. Journal of Experimental Biology, 205, 627-639.

Brackenbury, J.H. (2001), The vortex wake of the free-swimming larva and pupa of Culex pipiens, Journal of Experimental Biology, 204, 1855-1867.

Brackenbury, J.H. (1996), Novel locomotory mechanisms in lepidopterous larvae: life-line climbing in Epinotia and Yponomeuta. Physiological Entomology 21, 7-14.

Brackenbury, J.H. & Wang, R.Z. (1995), Ballistics and targeting in Alticinae. Journal of Experimental Biology 198, 1931-1942.

Brackenbury, J.H. & Wang, R.Z. (1994), Simple shutter for photographing high-speed events in biology. Medical and Biological Engineering Computing 32, 91-93.


Noctuid moth caterpillar: from Dr John Brackenbury's book on macrophotography "Close Up" (Rotovision, 2004).