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Viscerosensory pathways in the brain

This project seeks to define how viscerosensory neural pathways are organised within the brain.

Aims

A major push in neuroscience is to define the connectome, a map of every synaptic connection in the brain. This project seeks to define the synaptic connections to specific solitary tract nucleus output neurons. To address this idea I propose combining two powerful techniques: in vitro slice electrophysiology with neuronal tracing.

Viscerosensory information which reports internal organ function is broadcast throughout brain. This project seeks to define how viscerosensory neural pathways are organised within the brain. This basic knowledge will form the basis for understanding how the brain coordinates internal organ function during everyday occurrences such as exercise or during stress. It also creates a framework for future research into autonomic related disease such as hypertension.

There is a class of sensory information that is generally not perceived but is vital to maintaining life, called viscerosensory information. These signals come from neurons embedded among internal organs and report their function. All studies to date organise viscerosensory input to the brain by afferent functional class, called “input organization.” Another perspective is to discover how viscerosensory afferent input is arranged by defining were the signals are sent to within the brain, or “output organisation.”

This gap in our knowledge means we do not grasp how internal organ function is regulated through the course of normal variations in everyday life; whether it be modulation of respiratory rhythm during exercise, during stress or the integration of endocrine signals with autonomic function. Viscerosensory afferent axons enter the brain and terminate at the solitary tract nucleus.

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