Laboratory for Exercise & Environmental Physiology (LEEP)

Lab director Prof. Justin Stevan Lawley Email: Phone number: 43-512-507-45896 Office location: Büro 006  Address: Fürstenweg 189, Pulverturm, A-6020 Innsbruck Faculty: Sports Science

Lab Members    Lab Alumni    Internships   Lab Publications   Research Projects & Volunteering 

Laboratories & Research Methodologies


About the laboratory

Mission statement: Our overall mission is to undertake rigorous scientific research in order to understand life, improve human health and performance, and in doing so, inform our teaching and improve the education of our students.

Prof Lawley’s laboratory focuses on the physiology of human adaptation to stress (i.e. exercise, low oxygen and cold environments, and weightlessness / bedrest) and in using this knowledge to improve human health and performance. These broad interests have taken him around the world to study people living at high altitude, from the research laboratory to the medical clinic and into space, well at least very short periods of zero gravity on board parabolic flight. Prof Lawley’s laboratories fundamental scientific approach is that of integrative physiology. To achieve this, his research team uses a variety of advanced research methods to understand how complex physiological systems (heart, brain, blood vessels, muscles and nerves) interact to support an adaptive or maladaptive response to exercise and environmental stress.

Lab members:

Postdoctoral fellows
Dr. Kyouhei Marume, MD : Current Research: Optimizing exercising training to preserve cardiovascular function during space flight and deconditioning. Exploring the consequences of travelling to high altitude on right ventricular function in individuals with preexisting medical conditions.   Contact:
Dr Lydia Simpson, PhD: Current Research: Gender differences in autonomic control of blood pressure at rest and during exercise. Exploring the consequences of traveling to high altitude on barorefelx control of sympathetic nerve activity and blood pressure at rest and during exercise. Developing novel approaches to assess barorefelx regulation. Contact:


Doctoral students
Alex Hansen, MSc: Current Research: Pharmacological dissection of the sympathetic control of blood pressure at rest and during exercise, with a focus on polycythemia Contact:
Sachin Armin, MSc: Current Research: Describe the cardiovascular responses to passive heat stress and blood flow redistribution with exercise. Moreover, classifying an optimized lifestyle and training programs to improve vascular health. Contact:
Hendrick Mugule, MSc: Current Research: Examining the combination of exposure to hypoxia and the cold on integrative human physiology. Specifically, exploring how these two competing stressors effect the brain, heart and blood vessels in order to maintain oxygen delivery whilst defending peripheral and core temperatures. Contact:
Rachel Turner, MSc: Current Research: Identifying the underlying cerebral hemo- and hydrodynamics of exposure to high altitude, with an emphasis on identifying the mechanisms of high altitude cerebral edema. Projects involve a combination of high resolution physiological and neuroimaging techniques. Contact:
Peter Leo, MSc: Current Research: Identify the physiological characteristics and performance determinants in U23 and elite cyclists using laboratory and field based tests and data analysis techniques. Contact:
Dr. Carmen Possnig, MD: Current Research: Isolate the cause of cerebral hypoperfusion during short and long term periods of bedrest. Thereafter, identify and validate appropriate space flight and hospital based countermeasures.   Contact:


Lab Alumni:

Florian Hofstätter, MSc, 2019

Simon L. Rainer, MSc, 2019

Felix R. Willmer, MSc, 2019

Florian Groß, MSc, 2020

Paulette Saavedra, research internship, 2018

Joshua Robertson, summer research student, 2018


Research internships are available upon request. During an internship, you will be exposed to all aspects of working in a scientific laboratory, including but not limited to, day-to-day operations of a human research laboratory, setting up and calibration of research equipment, data acquisition, analysis and presentation. At the end of the internship, you will be expected to present a short presentation summarizing your work in our laboratory. To apply, complete the application form below, and please be aware that generally internal funds to support the internship are not available and unfortunately not all applications are successful as spaces are limited. 

Lab publications:



Research projects & volunteering to be part of a study

Advancements in understanding how the human body works is only possible thanks to the general public volunteering their time and efforts to be part of scientific investigations. At our laboratory for exercise and environmental physiology, you can be part of several different types of research. For example:

1. Exercise: Our research group explores how maintaining a physically active lifestyle benefits human health (exercise is medicine). Specifically, our team is interested in how starting and/or maintaining a new exercise regime, or lifelong committed exercise, benefits the function of blood vessels, the heart, and the brain. Our group is developing projects to identify the possible lifelong protective effects of exercise training during adolescence and optimizing training methods and exercise mimetics to improve cardiorespiratory and vascular function in people with hypertension and heart failure and/or cancer.

2. Altitude: Annually, 35 million people travel to places at altitudes >3000 m for work or recreation. However, despite its ravishing beauty, the mountain environment is inherently dangerous by exposing the body to low oxygen and cold temperatures. Thus, our group is interested in several aspects of improving the safety of travelling to high altitude. For example: 1) examining the pathophysiology of high altitude disorders (acute mountain sickness & high altitude cerebral edema), 2) identifying risks associated with travelling to, and exercising at, high altitude with preexisting medical conditions, 3) exploring the interactive effects of hypoxia and cold environments on thermal balance and the risk of cold injury, hypothermia and/or cardiovascular events, 4) helping the local inhabitants of high altitude plateaus by exploring the pathological impact of chronic mountain sickness, which is characterized by polycythemia.

Prof Lawley is co-editor of both chapters covering high altitude disorder in the text book Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine and one of the new editors of the classic textbook High Altitude Medicine and Physiology.

3. Astronauts: In opposition to exercise, our group is also interested in the effect of deconditioning, which is inevitable during periods of weightlessness, bedrest and aging. We have several projects focused on the impact of deconditioning on blood vessels, heart and brain function and developing countermeasures to stop these debilitative effects. A clear interwoven relationship exists between all three research themes in our laboratory, especially the impact of exercise. Moreover, now that future space habitats and extravehicular activity maybe under the atmospheric conditions of 8.2 psia and 34% O2 (inspired O2 pressure = 128 mmHg), there is an immerging need to examine the interactive effects of deconditioning and hypoxia, whereby our group is well placed and will be at the forefront of research.


If you would like to be a volunteer in one of our studies please contact



Laboratories & research methodologies 

Exercise Physiology LabOur exercise physiology laboratory is equipped with several exercise testing methodologies including a classic running (Cosmed) and new climbing specific treadmills (Climbstation) and hangboards (Lattice Training), two-cycle ergometers (Lode Excalibur and Cyclus trainer), and a configuration for assessing 12 minute walk time and functional tests.

Methodologies: To examine cardiorespiratory function during these exercise tests, the laboratory includes state-of-the-art techniques and a custom-designed setup to simultaneously assess metabolic gas exchange (Moxus, independent gas analyzers & Douglas bag technique), ventilatory dynamics (adult and pediatric Hans-Rudolph, pneumotachs), heart rate (Polar) and rhythm (12 Lead ECG), cardiac function (Philips, iE33) oxygen saturation (Nellcor, N600x), muscle oxygenation (Moxy, wireless), blood pressure (Tango, M2), and cardiac output via inert gas rebreathing (Innocor, Innovision).

Exercise Physiology Lab: Our cardiovascular laboratory is housed in the same building as our exercise laboratory and is equipped to perform several experimental paradigms including, but not limited to: leg stepping and isolated forearm handgrip exercise, local and whole-body heating and cooling, autonomic function tests, lower body negative pressure, end-tidal forcing and short periods supine or head down tilt bed rest.  

Methodologies: Our cardiovascular laboratory is similarly equipped to assess integrative physiology including: two standalone (Philips, iE33) and two portable (Terason, uSmart 3200T) Doppler/echocardiography ultrasound units for high-resolution assessment of muscle and brain blood flow and cardiac dimensions and function (all units have a range of high-frequency vascular and 2D and 3D cardiac probes), respiratory gas exchange (ADI, gas analyzers) and ventilatory dynamics (Hans-Rudolph, pneumotachs), 12-lead and 3-lead ECG (GE, Solar 8000), oxygen saturation (Nellcor, N600x), cerebral and muscle oxygenation (Hammamatsu, 200NX and/or Moxy, wireless), non-invasive intermittent (Tango, M2), beat-by-beat (Finapress, NOVA) and 24 hour (Tango, Oscar 2) blood pressure monitoring, cardiac output via inert gas rebreathing (Innocor, Innovision), sympathetic activity by microneurography (ADI, Neuramp), core temperature (GE, Solar 8000), whole body (Sable, TC2000) and local skin temperatures (Perimed, 5000/ Moore, LDF2) and skin blood flows (Moor, LDF2).

All signals in both laboratories can be recorded simultaneously and time-aligned using the Powerlab analog-to-digital converters and visualized via lab chat lightning, a computer program for physiological data acquisition and analysis. Moreover, independent workstations are available for advanced analysis of neuroimaging and cardiac and vascular physiology using in-house custom-designed programs and commercially available software (QLAB for echocardiography analysis, WinCPRS, SPSS, JMP).

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