Do vagal afferents synapse at parasympathetic motor neurons within the brainstem?

Sensory signals from internal organs are organised and processed upon first entering the brain is ill defined. Viscerosensory signals arise from several functional modalities; baroreceptors, chemoreceptors, lung stretch afferents, gastrointestinal etc. These varied signals terminate in the solitary nucleus to initiate autonomic reflexes to change internal organ function. Our group has observed terminations of these varied signals in other brain regions too. This has led us to investigate if vagal afferents synapse at parasympathetic motor neurons. If so, this will redefine autonomic reflex circuitry as we know it.

Aim

  • ┬áDetermine if vagal afferents synapse at parasympathetic motor neurons using optogenetic tools and slice electrophysiology.

Our group studies the basic neurophysiology underpinning the integration of sensory information within the brain. Our focus of study is at the level of the brain that first receives signals from visceral organs including those of the cardiorespiratory and gastrointestinal systems. This basic knowledge gained is pertinent to several disease states including; hypertension and obesity, and mental health. The primary techniques utilised within the laboratory revolve around anatomical mapping using viral tools in combination with in vitro slice electrophysiology. We possess a large skill-set and toolkit to answer a variety of experimental questions including optogenetics through to behavioural paradigms.

Research team

Research group

Collaborators

Professor Andrew Allen

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