How The Head Rules The Heart
The head really does rule the heart! Several neural outputs from the brain (largely the medulla) project to the heart and blood vessels. These neural pathways control or influence the normal and pathophysiological behaviour of the circulatory system. Disturbances of this control can result in diseases of the cardiovascular system, such as hypertension. Less commonly known is another group of neurones which project from the hypothalamus (specifically the PVN) directly to sympathetic pre-ganglionic neurones in the spinal cord (e.g., neurones which modulate the cardiovascular system).
Our belief is that sudden stresscould result in the activation of these neurones, with potentially, serious consequences. This BHF funded project is looking into the cellular mechanisms by which chemical stress factors could activate these neural pathways. When we understand how and why these neurones become active, we can think about how we could intervene to allow normal activity, but prevent abnormal, and dangerous activation of this pathway.