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Exploring the role of hepatic vagal afferents, central terminations and neurocircuitry

The McDougall/Viserosensory lab at the Florey Institute 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

Aims

To trace and manipulate hepatic vagal afferents to define their function.

Sensory signals from internal organs are organised and processed upon first entering the brain. Viscerosensory signals arise from several functional modalities to initiate autonomic reflexes.

Recent reports indicate sensory neurons in the liver send signals to the brainstem to modulate immune function via autonomic reflex (like) activity. The brain’s role in this capacity is not known and here you will use viral tools to specifically label these hepatic sensory neurons to see how this information is processed in the brainstem. This will establish how extensive the hepatic sensory innervates the brainstem.

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