Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

Photo of Michael J. Joyner, M.D.


Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

Photo of Michael J. Joyner, M.D., running in a marathon

         Mike running in the 2010              St. Croix Triathlon

Scientific expertise

Michael J. Joyner, M.D., is a physician-researcher and one of the world’s leading experts on human performance and exercise physiology. Using humans as his model system, he has made major contributions to understanding muscle and skin blood flow, blood pressure regulation, and human athletic performance. His ideas about human performance are widely quoted in both the popular media and scientific publications.

Mike has been a consultant to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NASA and has held leadership positions with prestigious scientific journals. His research lab at Mayo Clinic has been continuously funded by the NIH since 1993. Mayo Clinic named him a Distinguished Investigator in 2010. His lab has provided significant educational opportunities for students and trainees, many of whom have established independent research programs at leading institutions throughout the world.

He is also an entertaining lecturer and has a keen interest in how new ideas emerge, fade and then re-emerge in physiology. And he is a forceful advocate for the increased relevance of physiology in a scientific landscape currently dominated by reductionism.

Practicing anesthesiologist

Both Mike’s undergraduate (1981) and medical (1987) degrees are from the University of Arizona. He completed his residency and research training at Mayo Clinic, where he continues to practice anesthesiology, has held numerous leadership positions, and is the Frank R. and Shari Caywood Professor of Anesthesiology.


Mike follows and analyzes competitors in many sports. He is a 2:25 marathoner and has excelled in masters-level swimming. He is particularly interested in the physiology of world records.

Mike’s interest in human performance had a dramatic beginning in 1977. He was a walk-on to the University of Arizona men’s track and cross country teams and had been considering dropping out of college. After a race, Eddie Coyle, who was a graduate student and later became a noted physiologist who studied Lance Armstrong, asked him to volunteer as an athlete to be studied in a physiology experiment. Mike was immediately fascinated by the lab and began volunteering there, stayed in school and has studied human athletic performance ever since.

Mike’s broad interests include helping members of the general public understand the real-world implications of research, policy debates and related ideas covered in the popular press.

The views expressed on this website are Mike’s own and do not reflect the views of his employer.