First described by Claude Bernard but later coined by Walter Cannon, homeostasis refers to the process by which the body maintains a constant internal environment. In the orchestration of homeostasis, brain networks involved in autonomic and neuroendocrine function coordinate multiple peripheral physiological systems through complex network processing. Our laboratory is particularly interested in how the brain monitors, processes, and integrates energy homeostatic signals under normal physiology and pathological disease states.
To date, much of the work probing mechanisms and targets for central effects of energy homeostasis focuses on the hypothalamus and its long understood importance in feeding and metabolism. However, there is abundant evidence implicating another region, the brainstem’s dorsal vagal complex, as a critical center for sensing and regulating glucose metabolism. This region receives both peripheral afferent and upstream central signaling. This region then integrates all information and determines ultimate efferent outflow to various viscera, including the pancreas, liver, intestine and stomach, through the vagus nerve. As the first central relay for peripheral afferents and the final central modulatory point for efferent activity, our laboratory focuses on the vagal complex using a multi-disciplinary toolbox, including electrophysiology, molecular biology, and in vivo physiological analyses. We are currently pursing two distinct thematic programs involving the dorsal vagal complex’s role in energy homeostasis.
1) How sex and ovarian status modify energy homeostatic signaling in the dorsal vagal complex normally and after chronic hyperglycemia.
2) The integration of energy homeostatic signaling and cardiovascular autonomic networks.
Boychuk CR, Halmos KC, Smith BN.Diabetes induces GABA receptor plasticity in murine vagal motor neurons.J Neurophysiol. 2015 Jul;114(1):698-706. doi: 10.1152/jn.00209.2015. Epub 2015 May 20. PMID: 25995347
Boychuk CR, Woerman AL, Mendelowitz D. Modulation of bulbospinal rostral ventral lateral medulla neurons by hypoxia/hypercapnia but not medullary respiratory activity. 2012 Dec;60(6):1491-7. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.112.197954. Epub 2012 Oct 29. PMID: 23108653
Boychuk CR, Hayward LF. Prenatal nicotine exposure alters postnatal cardiorespiratory integration in young male but not female rats. Neurol. 2011 Dec;232(2):212-21. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2011.09.006. Epub 2011 Sep 16. PMID: 21945005
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