About this Research Topic
How the brain controls blood pressure and respiration has fascinated physiologists for over a century. The cardiovascular and respiratory systems are tightly coupled physiological systems, operating within a narrow homeostatic range to maintain blood pressure, O2 and CO2 relatively constant, but with the capacity to operate at different levels according to behavioral or environmental requirements. For a long time we have known that a decerebrate animal can breathe and maintain its blood pressure with only the brainstem intact. We have learnt much about the circuitry within the medulla required for the beat-to-beat control of blood pressure and heart rate, and the circuitry within the medulla and pons required for the generation of tidal breathing. We have also learnt about the roles of other subcortical structures, such as the hypothalamus, in homeostatic regulation of blood pressure and respiration, and the contributions of cortical structures to this control. Much of this knowledge has come through the development of novel techniques, such as viral tracing of pathways, use of the working-heart brainstem preparation and, most recently, optogenetics. Progress continues to be made in identifying the functional connectomes responsible for cardiovascular and respiratory control, and we are now at the stage where some of the work conducted in anaesthetized or conscious animals is being pursued in humans through brain imaging. But where does the future lie? What research should we be doing, how should we do it and where will that lead? This Research Topic builds on an annual meeting held in Australia for over 15 years, in which neuroscientists meet to discuss their latest work in central cardiovascular and respiratory control.
Keywords: Brain, Brainstem, Control of Blood Pressure, Control of Respiration