The lab specializes in integrative neuroscience, particularly neurophysiology and anatomy of the brainstem networks controlling autonomic and respiratory function. The lab leverages gene transfer technology to modulate and record neuronal activity (optogenetics, chemogenetics, in vivo calcium imaging) and apply gene interference technology to study the loss of gene function.

Neural control of blood pressure across physiological states

Blood pressure is the product of cardiac output and total peripheral resistance, which are tightly regulated by a highly conserved network of cells in the brainstem. Our understanding of the neural systems that regulate the cardiovascular system has limits. For example, we still lack a firm grasp of the location and relative importance of neuronal inputs to spinal regions that control the sympathetic nervous system that regulate the cardiovascular system. The lab is using single cell transcriptomics to identify and study novel cell populations involved in the sympathetic regulation of the cardiovascular system, and seeks to identify transcriptional changes in these neurons that account for the cardiovascular effects of hypoxia.

Central chemoreceptor function in the homeostatic control of breathing

Homeostatic alveolar ventilation varies according to the activity of chemoreceptors that are sensitive to oxygen and carbon dioxide in the circulation and brain. The lab is interested in the role of chemoreceptors in a brain region called the retrotrapezoid nucleus to the physiological response to CO2. We have recently shown that neurons in the retrotrapezoid nucleus are important for sleep disruption during CO2 exposure (Souza et al 2020), and we are pursuing experiments to better understand this function.

Check what Cajal has said before you begin working on any part of the nervous system.

-Advice from Le Gros Clark cited in Swanson’s translation of Cajal’s Histology of the Nervous System (as read in Bill Blessing’s excellent book ‘The Lower Brainstem and Bodily Homeostasis’