From body to brain: control of autonomic physiology by the sensory vagus nerve
Rui Chang, Ph.D.
Department of Cell Biology
Harvard Medical School
Cardiac, respiratory, and other autonomic functions are precisely controlled by the nervous system, yet many autonomic reflexes remain poorly characterized at a molecular and cellular level. The sensory vagus nerve is a major conduit between body and brain, and is critical for many autonomic physiology. Using a genetic approach, we molecularly deconstructed the vagus nerve, and successfully identified neuron populations that are critically involved in respiratory physiology and digestive functions. We further elucidated the molecular mechanism for lung inflation-mediated apnea. Together, these findings lay the groundwork for a molecular dissection of respiratory and gastrointestinal physiology.