Autonomic regulation and dysfunction

Neural Control of Cardiovasular & Respiratory Function


High blood pressure (hypertension) is the world’s biggest killer with 1 in 4 people affected accounting for 13% of all deaths globally. It leads to stroke, heart failure, coronary artery disease and chronic kidney disease and presents one of the biggest unmet clinical needs worldwide. 

Our hypothesis is that hypertension is a failure of the nervous system causing an imbalance in sympathetic versus parasympathetic activity levels. We take a multi-disciplinary approach including an analysis of the genetic basis of the autonomic nervous system to translational proof of concept human clinical trials.


We are located in the School of Physiology & Pharmacology, Medical Sciences Building (basic science) and our clinical work forms the ‘CardioNomics’ group based in the Clinical Research and Imaging Centre on St. Michael’s Hill. Our specialist hypertension clinic is in the Bristol Heart Institute.


We are exploring whether poor blood perfusion of the brainstem and/or kidneys and dysfunctional astrocytic signalling or changes in neuro-vascular and vascular-neuronal coupling, can contribute to hypertension and sympathetic activity generation. Other projects are looking at brainstem inflammation, changes in respiration, and its coupling to the autonomic nervous system, as well as re-setting of homeostatic reflex sensitivity as contributors to hypertension in both animal models and humans. We are interested in the cross talk between the brain and both heart and kidney and interact with the Renal, Diabetic and Hypertensive Disease group. Our research approaches are multi-disciplinary and include using viral mediated transgenesis, optogenetics combined with novel confocal and micro-endoscopy imaging, radio-telemetry, microneurography and functional MRI.

From molecule to man, our aim is to develop much needed therapeutic ways to control arterial pressure in patients with hypertension. Our efforts are harnessing novel pharmacological, interventional and device based approaches for treatment of cardiovascular diseases. 

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Further details on research in automatic regulation and dysfunction can be found by visiting pages of key researchers in this field.
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