- B.S., Emory University, 1989
- Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh, 1994
My family is from Texas but I have lived in many states including Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wyoming. I specialize in teaching neurophysiology to our graduate students in several programs including Integrative Physiology, Medical Science Masters Program, and Physician Assistant Program. I recently developed an online version of my teaching block for the Medical Sciences Program. I have enjoyed trained masters students, doctoral students, and postdoctoral fellows who have gone on to their next steps in a career related to biomedical research, teaching, and industry. I am also actively involved with my home scientific society, the American Physiological Society. I was recently elected to serve on the governing Council of the society, which provides opportunities to share research, learn new educational methods, promote community outreach, and groom the next generation of societies. One of my favorite hobbies is to travel the world to see the sights and learn about different cultures and cuisine. Fortunately, being an academic scientist provides many opportunities to travel and interact with scientists around the globe. Although I love being a teacher in multiple settings, I also thrive as a life-long learner.
Although my background is in psychology and neuroscience, I have had a long-standing interest in how the nervous systems interacts with systems of the body. My research examines how the brain and autonomic nervous system regulate blood pressure, and in turn, how cardiovascular function affects the brain. We have also investigated how the neural regulation of breathing and blood pressure are interconnected within the brainstem in healthy and disordered states. We use a variety of methods in rats to study these interactions, such as electrophysiology to record autonomic nerve activity and individual neurons in the brain while measuring arterial pressure, heart rate, and ventilation. We also perform long-term, continuous measures of arterial pressure, heart rate, and blood glucose by telemetry. We combine these physiological studies with histological and molecular approaches to examine where and how the brain changes in disease states. We examine the autonomic and cardiovascular consequences of obesity/metabolic syndrome and chronic intermittent hypoxia as a model of obstructive sleep apnea. Clear guidelines and treatments have been established for blood pressure, but increased variability of blood pressure also damages organs and the brain, even in the absence of hypertension. We examine this short-term regulation of blood pressure by baroreflexes in healthy and disordered states. We examine how insulin resistance and high blood glucose impair the brain’s ability to regulate blood pressure and its variability, and how treatments to restore blood glucose improve blood pressure regulation. We have also observed important sex differences with obesity. We also examine how metabolic syndrome changes the brain to promote Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. We study how traits of obesity, such as hypertension, impaired baroreflexes, insulin resistance, and high blood glucose are linked with molecular changes in the brain and impaired learning and memory.
obesity, metabolic syndrome, sympathetic nerve activity, blood pressure, baroreflexes, insulin resistance
I am currently NIH funded to investigate how obesity and metabolic syndrome alters the brain’s ability to regulate cardiovascular function using a genetic model of obesity, the obese Zucker rat. Due to a genetic mutation, these rats are hungry and eat all the time, but they are the happiest rats you will ever meet. I am also funded to investigate how attributes of metabolic syndrome promote the development of histological markers and behavioral deficits associated with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
- 2017-21 National Institutes of Health: R01-HL132568 Principal Investigator Mechanisms for Impaired Short-Term Control of Blood Pressure with Obesity
- 2019-21 National Institutes of Health: R01-HL132568, Administrative Supplement Principal Investigator Mechanisms for Impaired Short-Term Control of Blood Pressure with Obesity: Links to Alzheimer’s Disease
- Neurophysiology -Membrane Potentials
- Synaptic transmission and neurotransmitters
- Central nervous system structure and function
- Voluntary motor control by the brain in health and disease of motor neurons, basal ganglia and cerebellum
- Sensory neurophysiology
- Autonomic nervous system and regulation of cardiovascular function
UNTHSC Committees and Service
- IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee)
- Promotion and Tenure Committee for Department of Physiology and Anatomy and GSBS
National/International Committees and Service
- Grant reviewer for the National Institutes of Health Grant reviewer for the American Heart Association Manuscript reviewer for 21 peer-reviewed journals
- Editorial Board member for 3 journals Council member, American Physiological Society Member, APS Beverly Petterson Bishop awards committee