GRADUATE PROGRAM AFFILIATIONS:
Ph.D., New Jersey Institute of Technology, 2000
Postdoctoral Training, Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine, 2000-2003
Moment-to-moment, the baroreflex system is essential for stabilizing blood pressure. Over the past 20 years, the static anatomic features and pharmacology of the baroreflexes have been established, however, more than 50 million Americans still suffer from hypertension. Clearly something of importance is missing; most perspicuously, the plastic-dynamic features of the baroreflex system are not known. In fact, we have neither theory or data to explain how the baroreflexes adapt to environment, aging, stress and disease. Our basic and applied research seeks to close this gap by analyzing the neural plasticity that underlies baroreflex blood pressure regulation, and developing our basic findings into clinical applications that can be used to control hypertension.
Recently, we reported that long-term potentiation (LTP) – the standard mammalian model of neural plasticity – can modify the baroreflex brainstem circuitry, and we have explained how this previously unknown neurophysiological mechanism can have an important role in long-term blood pressure regulation. To move this finding into the clinic, we are developing a neural plasticity dependent nerve stimulation device that can be used to efficiently lower blood pressure.
Engineering and mathematical analysis has a central role in our laboratory: To investigate quantitative features of the baroreflex system, we use a highly instrumented, CNS intact long-term rat preparation. We record blood pressure, EKG, regional blood flow, brain and autonomic nerve electrical activity, and many other physiological variables, and simultaneously, precisely and repeatedly stimulate the baroreflex afferent nerves. Both the signal acquisition and analysis require a range of techniques that are drawn from electrical engineering and communications theory. Currently, we are collaborating with a group of theoretical physicists at Beijing Normal University, to develop a computational model of neural plasticity in baroreflex long-term blood pressure regulation.