My lab investigates cellular and physiological mechanisms used by autonomic systems; cardiovascular, respiratory and glucoregulatory. Physiological reflexes (e.g. baroreflex, chemoreflex, glucose counterregulation) function to maintain homeostasis in the healthy state. They are integrated by neuronal circuits in the brain, and their long term and short term patency is continually regulated by genetic and environmental factors. Pathological regulation can form the basis for disease (respiratory disorders, hypertension, diabetes). How do homeostatic systems - which are vital for survival - adapt to changing environmental conditions? How do environmental challenges contribute to neuronal excitability, physiological processes and drug action?
We have expertise in cutting-edge tools and techniques (molecular methods, mouse genetics, imaging techniques, viral mediated gene rescue and knockdown) that are currently revolutionizing neuroscience. We use these skills to interrogate alterations in autonomic systems following physiological/environmental stress and provide avenues for therapy based on molecular understanding of disease processes.
Qualifications: BMedSc (Hons1) USYD, PhD USYD
PhD and Honours projects/topics available include:
TOPIC - Respiratory chemoreception: Inhibitory neuropeptides in respiratory chemoreceptors: what is their contribution to ventilatory behaviour? How is this role altered during chronic respiratory/environmental stress (e.g. sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obesity hypoventilation syndrome, apnea of prematurity).
Project 1: This project will investigate human infant brain chemoreceptor populations. The effects of acute versus chronic intermittent hypercapnic hypoxia on protein expression in these chemoreceptor populations will be determined. Finally, protein expression changes in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), compared to control infants will be investigated.
Project 2: Does chronic hypercapnia exposure cause neuroinflammation? Implications for sleep apnea and apnea of prematurity
Project 3: Does chronic hypercapnia exposure alter neuropeptide protein expression in brain respiratory chemoreceptor populations? Implications for sleep apnea
TOPIC - Glucose counterregulation: Nearly all sympathetic preganglionic neurons that are activated by hypoglycaemia, to execute adrenalin release via adrenal chromaffin cells, are enkephalinergic. In human studies, the similarities between hypoglycemia associated autonomic failure (HAAF) and exercise associated autonomic failure (EAAF) suggest that they share a common pathophysiology. How do endogenous opioid neuropeptides regulate the glucose countergulatory response to hypoglycemia? How is deterioration in the response to hypoglycemia seen in Type 1 diabetic patients also induced by exercise?
Teaching: Contributions to pharmacology teaching for both science and medical students. Particular areas of expertise are autonomic neuroscience, animal behaviour and cardiorespiratory physiology.
Society Memberships & Professional Activities: Society for Neuroscience, American Physiological Society, Australasian Neuroscience Society, Franklin Women.